Last summer, a micro-grocery called ‘Oasis’ opened in the Russell Neighborhood. The store is a collaboration between Dare to Care, Catholic Charities of Louisville, Buehler’s Cash Savers Market, and Louisville Forward.
The store was initially pitched as a six-month pilot project aiming to serve as a supplement in a neighborhood where fresh food is difficult to find, especially since a number of grocery stores — including Kroger branches, Pic-Pac and First Link — have closed in recent years.
Organizers were excited about the launch. But Stanley Siegwald, director of strategic initiatives at Dare to Care, said nearly a year later, it’s pretty quiet at Oasis.
“The sales have been slow,” he said. “It started off pretty robust, and then came down and has stayed at a low level since October.”
According to Siegwald Oasis is facing a few challenges. For one thing, it’s located inside the Sisters Visitors Center of Catholic Charities and keeps the same hours, which means the store closes before most people get off work.
And Siegwald also said they have received feedback that the food selection is too limited.
“There’s only frozen protein, frozen vegetables, frozen fruit,” he said. “Sometimes we have bags of rice or beans to supplement, but not much. Definitely not a one-stop shop.”
Nor was it intended to be, Siegwald said.
In a 2018 interview shortly following the opening of Oasis, Matt Dills, COO of Cash Savers Market, said the Oasis store was meant to be an inexpensive supplement to some of the stores in west Louisville that sell shelf-stable food, but lack fresh options.
“I think the best way to approach it is to sell it frozen, so fresh-frozen,” he said. “Fresh-frozen produce is actually fresher than what you’re buying off the shelf at room temperature. It also ensures quality produce won’t be wasted.”
Additionally, while Oasis is located on a bus line, Siegwald said customers have said that transporting groceries via public transit is difficult.
Now, he said, organizers are working to address problems. For one, he said, they hope to gather volunteer staff to keep the store open later hours.
And one of the most promising ideas, he said, is a mobile Oasis market.
“The beauty of a mobile market is that it is a 50-foot, one aisle grocery store [on a truck] that will carry fresh product,” Siegwald said. “There is more flexibility in being able to adjust the inventory based on consumer interests.”
He said the mobile market will be a joint venture with Kroger. Siegwald said it would address both the lack of food variety and some of the transportation challenges. He said the market will visit various neighborhoods throughout Louisville.
It will hopefully hit the streets later this year, he said.