CLYDE — When people think of “food deserts” — defined as places where access to fresh food is limited — they often think of urban areas.
However, it’s not just an urban challenge. There are countless food deserts in rural areas across the state, nation and region.
That’s certainly the case in eastern Wayne County, where just a couple of communities have local grocery stores. Wolcott has one, while the town of Rose lost its store several years ago.
To the south in Clyde, that was the case in 2010, when the former P&C Grocery on Columbia Street closed. Fortunately, Save-A-Lot took over the spot a few months later and served the community for some nine years.
In July 2019, Clyde is once again without a store, but this time the news is hardly dire.
On Aug. 1, the spot will reopen as Martin’s Grocery Outlet, owned and operated by Burnell and Karen Martin, who own a dairy and crop farm on nearby Jenkins Road in Galen.
Karen Martin worked at the former Save-A-Lot for the past year, said her husband as he took a break from readying the store for its opening.
The Save-A-Lot store in Clyde was being sold by the family of the late John Hart of Penn Yan, who owned several franchises in New York. He died in a tragic accident last November.
Burnell Martin said when he learned that the store was for sale, they made an offer.
“It’s the only one in town, and we didn’t want to see it shut down,” he said.
The timing was right. The dairy business is going through challenging times nationwide, and it’s no different in upstate New York, Burnell said. So, they decided to get out of dairy.
“Life is too short to be slaving away and not making (that much) money,” he said. “People don’t have to drink milk, but they have to eat. Our goal is to have a good grocery store in Clyde.”
And while the Martins may be newcomers to the grocery business, they have plenty of guidance and support available.
One of Karen Martin’s uncles operates a successful discount grocery store in central Pennsylvania called Wenger’s Grocery Outlet. The Martins are using Wenger’s as a model for their own store.
The Clyde store, like Wenger’s, will specialize in closeouts, overruns, warehouse damaged, close-dated items and factory seconds. Fresh meats will fill the coolers.
That means significantly cheaper prices, said Burnell Martin, noting that is good for a place like Clyde, where many incomes are modest.
“Our goal is to provide good, healthy food at very affordable prices,” he said.
However, Wenger’s is more than just the template for the new Clyde store. They also will be a major supplier of the goods on the store’s shelves.
And like the Pennsylvania store, but unlike Save-A-Lot, Martin’s will have a full-service deli featuring soups and sandwiches. Martin said he hopes the many employees of the next-door Advanced Atomization Technologies plant will stop in to pick up lunches at Martin’s.
They hope to source as much local food as they can, as well, and their own farm will be a contributor.
“We’re going to keep the farm, and eventually we’re going to raise beef (cattle) and we’ll sell it here,” he said.
Noting the many fruit farms — in particular apples — in the county, Martin said the store also plans to offer as much local produce as possible.
Clyde Mayor Jerry Fremouw is glad the Martins are keeping his village from becoming one of those food deserts.
“It’s vital to our community,” Fremouw said. “Many villages and towns are losing the access to grocery stores. Some don’t have the means to travel or just can’t. I’m glad that this local couple took this opportunity to invest in our community.”
Galen Supervisor Steve Groat played an important role in getting Save-A-Lot to go to Clyde but could not be reached for comment.