Entrepreneur plans 'zero-waste' bulk food store on Janesville's south side | Local News | gazettextra.com

2022-08-20 13:24:29 By : Mr. Andy Wang

The sign for Sustain Ability Bulk Shoppe, a new grocery store coming to Janesville’s south side in September. The store at 1905 Center Ave. will offer ‘zero waste,’ unpackaged foods and home goods in bulk, and minus the standard, paper or plastic grocery store bags.

The sign for Sustain Ability Bulk Shoppe, a new grocery store coming to Janesville’s south side in September. The store at 1905 Center Ave. will offer ‘zero waste,’ unpackaged foods and home goods in bulk, and minus the standard, paper or plastic grocery store bags.

Janesville’s south side, a place notoriously short on fresh food over the past few years, is getting a new grocery option—and it’ll come minus a lot of the fancy packaging.

In September, Cassandra Pope plans to open Sustain Ability Bulk Shoppe, an independent grocery and home goods market that will offer “zero-waste” bulk foods and other household goods using as little paper or plastic boxing, packaging, wrapping and bagging as possible.

Pope plans to launch the new store at 1905 Center Ave., Janesville, in the heart of the south side’s commercial corridor. Customers who come in will see hoppers of fresh staple foods such as grains, locally grown fruits and vegetables and fresh eggs—all for sale minus wrapping and packaging.

That’d be along with items marketed as environmentally-friendly alternatives to bottled plastic detergents, soaps and other household items.

Just don’t ask for a plastic grocery bag to carry any of it out.

As far as Pope is concerned, the only plastic packaging she wants to see come in or out of the store is reusable, snap-lid containers in which customers would box up things like dry rice, beans, or flour.

Pope, a former early childhood education teacher and manager, decided a little over a year ago that she wanted to embrace “eco-minimalism,” a consumer movement intended to move away from retail packaging that’s later discarded.

Pope found that there were few local stores, especially on the south side, that offered minimally packaged items in bulk. She also identified an on-again, off again void of fresh food and staples on the south side since a few years before the COVID-19 pandemic, ever since the Center Avenue Pick n’ Save closed.

“There just wasn’t anything, no stores that had the values I was looking for. So I just decided to make one. I wanted I wanted a store that I could shop in, a store that, as selfish as it sounds, is for me. And I started realizing that there was a lot more people out there like me, who were looking for this kind of store,” Pope said.

Pope has been building the shop’s business online by selling non-food home goods items that are marketed as sustainable, such as single-use, concentrated laundry detergent strips, sustainable wood cooking utensils and packaging-free handmade soaps, reusable metal straws and packaging-free sponges.

When her south side store opens, Pope will offer mainly vegetarian foodstuffs, plus fresh eggs, locally made honey and maple syrup—and even kombucha, a naturally fermented tea, on tap— along with home goods.

Most of the items will come into the store in packaging that’s “compostable,” and customers will be able to buy food by weight.

“Think ‘old school,’ hundreds of years ago, if you walked into a general store, you’d get everything you need from your store, but it’s not all wrapped up in a bunch of packaging. That’s what we’re trying to be. We’re focusing on the everyday essential things that you need, the bare minimum that you need to run your life with the bare minimum of packaging,” Pope said.

Customers who shop at Sustain Ability will be able to get their own reusable glass and plastic keeper containers filled by store employees with whatever food items they want in whatever amount they’d like, Pope said.

The store, which has a sign that features an image of a canvas tote, also will offer donated keeper bags for people to use to carry their goods home.

Sustain Ability would be one of a few niche new grocers that are seeking to tap a retail market on the south side that’s been relatively devoid of fresh food.

The idea is to appeal to both people who seek fresh food minus wasteful packaging, and south side residents who need household staples but don’t want to make a half-hour round trip across town to Janesville’s supermarket-thick northeast side.

Pope said her store’s model of non-packaged staple foods is aimed at keeping prices competitive. She said she doesn’t intend to run sales on items aimed at getting people to splurge and overbuy unnecessary groceries.

“It’s not about selling you a 50-pound bulk bag of rice,” Pope said. “The idea we’re after, actually, is to eliminate waste. That includes eliminating food waste.”

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