According to Jere Downs of the Louisville Courier-Journal, the multiple protests at several West Louisville meetings over the construction of a $40 million composting facility at the FoodPort at 30th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard, will no longer be part of the development. Concerns about industrial pollution and a negative history of such plans in impoverished neighborhoods, Nature's Methane has also postponed a presentation to Louisville Metro's Board of Zoning Adjustment. Seed Capital Kentucky founder Steven Reily acknowledged the people of West Louisville's influenced this move. "This is a community that has had too many things done to them for too long instead of with them or for them." Reily added, "(there has been a legacy that) "for a century has chosen to place toxic problems where disenfranchised people live...it has created a very strong fear of more projects like that."
This is a clear example that there is power in the people and power in our numbers, and when we want to organize to do something, that we can. The FoodPort project no longer has a biodigester plant in its midst. However, even in the midst of this victory for environmental health for a Black neighborhood, a new void has emerged that must be solved. Now with no Nature's Methane, there are five acres in the 24 acre project that will need to be developed...so what now?
What can fill the void left by the loss of the space? How about...a grocery? No brothers and sisters. Not just any grocery. We have Kroger on 28th and Broadway, and 34th and Portland. You have a Pic-Pac on 25th and Market. They are all busy stores that get a steady stream of traffic. What I propose is something that places another step forward, that goes beyond the conventional thinking of what is a good idea or what "would be nice" if we had it, but it would contribute to The New Identity - another tool that allows West Louisville neighborhoods to reinvent and reimagine themselves.
When it comes down to it, like my man Ed Dunn at Dream and Hustle has broken it down, "Transformative business models that create solutions require the hood to transform into residents who want solutions."
This project is a job creator. Working class sisters and brothers who live in West Louisville get jobs, are from the community, and pay taxes. It also can encourage other middle-class people to repatriate back to West Louisville to establish economic stabilization. Now here it is: People...beloved...are you ready to lift people from the hood into the working class or do we want to let these neighborhoods stay broke and dilapidated?
There is an emerging grocery model that allows for grocery shopping without walking around in a grocery store. It is online grocery pickup and uses the developing retail model of "buy online/pickup in store" or BOPIS. I will use this Mo'pinion to introduce you to the BOPIS, discuss how there are advantages specifically for our community and with the research, experimentation and application of our kin site Dream and Hustle, how to implement this model in West Louisville. It is my hope that the hungry and aspirational sisters and brothers of this community recognize that this project is not only doable, but the components to make it a reality are already in place and only requires the will and effort to make it so.
The BOPIS Model (online grocery and pickup)
This online grocery pick up model allows customers to use their mobile device or desktop/notebook computer to shop for products not unlike an e-commerce web site. The customer can also have a credit or debit card on file and the grocery store web site or app will allow him or her to get the date and time to pick up their selections. The grocery pickup location is a warehouse where employees are inside assembling orders and putting them in baskets. The area for pickup should have a car park for customers to come, confirm their order and pick it up when the BOPIS operation brings it out to load in their vehicle.
Target and Amazon have recently announced plans to build and test similar services. Amazon is developing one such store in Sunnyvale, Silicon Valley. Walmart announced a model that allows customers to order online and come to a car park much like a 1950s-style drive-in restaurant like DizzyWhizz or Sonic. Here is a blueprint of this layout for your review.
[click image to enlarge]
In this plan, notice that Walmart is planning a 15,000 square foot warehouse and notice the car parking slots and the big stripe path in the center where orders are taken from the warehouse to customer vehicles. Other grocery chains like Publix™ tried this with curbside pickup and Swiss Farms and SmartMart are other chains in this country that have attempted similar efforts.
The model that has already executed what Walmart has proposed and what we at Narrow The Gap! discuss here is Kansas City's Zoomin™ pickup model.
As the video shows, the staff pulls product from the shelves as the customer orders from the comfort of his home. The customer gets a pickup time, comes to the location, enters some data on a kiosk and the staff comes out with his groceries and loads them into his car.
Advantages of this Online Grocery Pickup Model
How does this model work for the FoodPort and how could it be repeated in other West Louisville locations? The greatest advantage is that it removes a majority of the challenges in starting up and running a grocery operation. Let's review how a so-called "inner city community," such as the ones of West Louisville, can see real benefits in this business model.
It's a Membership Model. The grocery business can better know the customers they have and work with because they are registered users. The interactions with panhandlers and beggars are removed and a store's liability concerns from "slip and fall" lawsuits go away. With this model, the business operation can focus on establishing positive relationships with its customers and when there are problem customers, their memberships can be pulled. Loitering goes away as well, nothing but vehicles pulling in with orders to pick up.
Improved Inventory Control. This type of grocery model removes the problems of shoplifting and loss prevention problems because these particular kinds of people will never be inside of a store. The only people inside are employees and because it is staff only, better technology like RFID and even laser cameras can be used to manage inventory to every single item tracked in real-time. The grocer has the power to show real-time product availability on the web site/app and inform the customer when an item is sold-out or being restocked.
Single Parents with Children. Working single parent worry about shopping is made easier. A parent can manage their grocery list on their phone, pick their child(ren) up from daycare on their way home and come to the drive-thru grocery and pick up their items.
Plays Well With Modern — and Traditional — Black Community Ride Services. People who do not have cars can use Uber, Lyft, ZipCar, or the old-school jitney cabs that retired brothers have at the old-school grocery stores to help people go pickup their grocery order and be in and out, just like that without having to call a cab. Frankly, this can be a real game-changer in the more dense urban spots that allows car-less people access to a community resource where they can stay in the community, shop and spend more money.
West Louisville Job Creation. Young brothers and sisters can have stable entry-level jobs order picking to manage the RFID technology and maintaining the kiosks. It also provides opportunities for STEM jobs to develop the web site/app/cloud management service and also manage buying and other retail operations. These are good jobs that can come as a result of a West Louisville online grocery at the FoodPort location.
APIs and Data Analytics. Since the orders are being made online, it is possible to find community trends in terms of what people eat and the intervals that they buy, so that stock and inventory can be managed more efficiently. With old-school grocery models, this is more of a guessing game.
APIs (application program interface) are a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications. The API specifies how software components should interact and APIs are used when programming graphical user interface (GUI) components, like your smartphone apps or the e-commerce web sites that you use. With APIs, there are software-focused experts who can create things such as creating a lifestyle grocery list for a person working with a personal trainer or managing their own workout plans, and can just select from that customized list and pay and pickup the pre-packaged order. If you want to prepare a custom recipe or meal, the grocery can quickly put together the ingredients. Many incredible possibilities in creating customized lists and grocery list management.
Execution: How Do We Get This Done In West Louisville?
The great thing about this is that the wheel does not have be recreated. The pieces to get this business model up and running quickly and well already exist. Our kin site at Dream and Hustle has covered this in their blog over the years on how to effectively set this up. Let me tell and show you how.
Create STEM Components. A scalable, responsive HTML5 e-commerce template that you can customize should be the framework for a digital construction of this project. Further example on how to put this together I include here. Templates like this are only about $20 and can be customized to the server-side language of your choice. For this West Louisville FoodPort grocery model, people/staff should be used to come out physically to the customers to verify orders versus using kiosk machines. The community strivers and thrivers motivated enough to make this project come into being, should think about how to incentivize community youth to become agents for this e-commerce adoption. Community youth could offer services/create businesses based on helping elderly community members select and order groceries and do pickup and delivery for them — it becomes a 21st century youth job above and beyond grass cutting and snow removal.
Create a Web Site to Gather Intelligence. Narrow The Gap! exists to provide for you material that you will not get anywhere in Louisville, much less West Louisville. You can create a $5.00/month GoDaddy coming-soon site that allows people to enter products and items that they would like to buy from a grocery. It can also be easily set up to scan UPC codes using a mobile phone which can pipe right into your created database. Click this Dream and Hustle link that broke down how to do it.
When you put this together, what happens is that you will see a list of items that responders buy and you will have better intelligence and data on how to fill your inventory. This allows you to hit the ground running from the start and people willing to invest in your vision can be impressed by your ability to engage the market and sign up potential customers ready to do business with you.
Location, Location, Location. The spot is there, ready to be developed. The void is there, because Nature's Methane has been kicked to the curb. The former Lorillard site at 30th and Muhammad Ali is ideal to place an online-pickup grocery store, and an excellent synthesis with the other businesses in the FoodPort development project. Let's ask another strong question. What local council people will get on board with this idea and help direct TIF funding toward this because this will specifically create local jobs and be a tax generator for the community? The future tenure of their positions perhaps should rest on such support.
Community Capital Fundraising, Part One: Kickstarter. Now that you've built the software created with HTML5, the signups and registration from your "Coming Soon" page and the location is on lock, it is now time to raise funds through Kickstarter. There are several talented video and film producers in West Louisville. Hire them to produce a video presentation on how this business project will create community jobs and provide one more oasis in the food desert of West Louisville. Keep in mind good people that the dream is free, but the hustle is optional. Money is not just going to come from nowhere online, you are going to have to be visible and work and hustle to make it happen.
Get to Hiring, Get to Buying. SeedCapital KY is onboard and fully supports you as a new partner in the FoodPort project, and perhaps lends you access to some of their larger support. Construction is underway. You've got venture capital now. Use that money as leverage to start hiring staff, buying equipment and inventory. Have a job fair for construction (with the established Black construction firms having full opportunity and getting first dibs for contracts), have and hire sisters experienced in the grocery industry selecting products and merchandise for inventory and young striver youth, ideally male, deliver to the trunk.
Get Started. Extreme press and public relations. Narrow The Gap! will help and cheer all along the way! Bring in the council people, Mayor Fischer and all of the city's news and media crews to come to opening day for the ribbon cutting. Watch the orders start to roll in, see the vehicles come in and have your staff greet them with a smile and a commitment to the very best of service. Anticipate items going out of stock, monitor well what items are being more frequently requested and keep your inventory lean. This model should be built to readily accept money over the Internet (extremely important for a 21st century modern model) and be fully able to accept prepaid cards, WIC and EBT and direct debit cards to avoid high merchant fees. Once the FoodPort grocery shows to be a success, it can be applied in other West Louisville neighborhoods and repeated in inner cities across America.
West Louisville will come to love this thing because it is a win-win for the people, as opposed to that crazy methane plant project that offered few jobs with virtually no opportunity for indigenous hiring, and lots of risk for negative and potentially catastrophic outcomes with literally no direct benefit to the people of West Louisville, yet they would be the burden-bearers for all of the liabilities. This business model creates entry-level jobs and STEM jobs, creates opportunity for adjunct business and enterprise to develop around it, and the means to keep more generated Black dollars circulating and operating in West Louisville neighborhoods around one of the fundamental staples for modern societal life (food, clothing, shelter and transportation).
It is a game changer in that allows for modern urban transportation models like Uber and Lyft to pickup people who don't own cars and get their groceries where they don't have to walk and/or carry heavy bags back home.
This model ensures increased safety and security in a current at-risk community because you will not have youth arrested for shoplifting because they never will be inside the store. Community people know that there's a lack of jobs in the neighborhood but will appreciate a local job that will help them pay their bills. Most important, however, is this online grocery pickup business model can be repeated and expanded to different urban areas around the city and around the nation and can compete with Walmart and other upstarts through focusing on "the hood."
In this struggle to "narrow the gap", everybody has a position to play. Street resistance to injustice holds a place, but we must be committed to building and rebuilding our communities with organized, serious plans and purpose. Some people in America have never liked us and never will. That does not and cannot stop us from seizing the opportunities to do for ourselves and work together to develop and recreate our neighborhoods. We can make a better world for our children with an even better quality of life and possibility. It's all about being willing, having plans and being ready to work hard toward those goals.
We're a winner. Let's play to win.