A Model Neighborhood General Store: Doria Roberts at TEDxAtlanta (Transcript)

Doria Roberts – TRANSCRIPT

Hi, I’ll be quick. I know you’re hungry. So, yes, I am Doria Roberts, and you’ve probably seen my wife, chef Calavino Donati, walking around doing the food. Together, we make Urban Cannibals Bodega + Bites. And, yes, we serve people. Yes, we do. Yes.

So, what is an Urban Cannibal? We get asked that a lot. And Urban Cannibal is just basically a concept. It’s about how we feed off of each other, through the exchange of our ideas, like today — our services, our talents. We would not have been able to build our store without this philosophy. For example, I babysat for Steve and Elise’s newborn twins while Steve and Calavino broke down the wall to build out the store.

And then there’s Ron, who helped us build our shelving, which is all made of pallets we got from another friend for free, which took maybe 20 percent off of our building costs. So, we are feeding Ron and Minka forever. Pretty much. So that’s that basic concept of the name. We’re also a deli, a chef-driven deli. We are a bakery. We are a bodega, which is just another name for a small grocery store. And we are an ad hoc community center. We have quarterly community partners that we announce, and we encourage our customers to volunteer for them and when their service is done, we reward them at the store with discounts or customer appreciation.

We are also a gateway store, that’s what we call it, and it works just like a gateway drug. We carry sustainable and conventional products, and it is confusing for people to see regular bleach alongside non-chlorine bleach. But it’s really important for us that people recognize themselves when they come into the store so that they can have a full experience without feeling uncomfortable or that they don’t belong.

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So, we hope that, over course of becoming a regular, that maybe they’ll pick up the non-chlorine bleach eventually. But it’s OK if they don’t. We just want to be as open as possible and not alienate anyone. We are a local food depot. We focus on local food, and we actually promote local food over organic mainly because — and this is important for you to know — a lot of local purveyors and producers cannot get certified organic because it’s cost prohibitive. It doesn’t mean that they’re not using the practices that would be considered organic, it’s just that it is really cost prohibitive.

So, we promote local first, then organic. When you come into our store, you are supporting up to 30 small businesses. That’s from the deli, from the bakery and from the products that we have on the shelves. Our basic mission statement is to make sustainable attainable. And I know that’s very catchy — make sustainable attainable — But it’s true. It’s really important for us to make sustainable products available — not just available, access is only part of the process — but to make these things available and affordable to people in underserved communities. We do that by being a drop-off for CSAs — and that stands for “community-supported agriculture,” which means you buy into a farm and the farm gives you food. It’s really simple. The one that we do is more of a weekly thing, and it’s really cost effective.

If you broke down everything out of the box, you probably would not pay the same price as if you went to another store that I won’t say anything about. So, we do the CSA. We also do that for grass-fed local meats. We also accept EBT, and these are folks that have government subsidies for food. It’s really important to understand that a half-gallon of local milk is 4 dollars, which is not really going to go far with people on these subsidies. So, we are looking for ways to double those dollars for those folks as well.

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Let’s see. Basically, I’m going to end this by saying that anyone who’s looking to do any of the things that are being talked about — starting a store, being a musician — one of the good ways to create community is just to be a part of it. It’s really simple. We listen to our customers, and we’ve built our store around them, as opposed to coming in with an agenda and saying, “This is what you’re going to buy; this is what you’re doing to do.” So, whether you’re an environmental activist or a food-justice activist, we just call it doing the right thing. Thank you so much. And the food is waiting for you, and I appreciate you listening.

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