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Vinton Co. Edges Closer to Grocery Store Opening

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Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of stories on WOUB, showcasing the path to a new grocery store in McArthur and removing one part of Southeast Ohio from the “food desert” map. The series is being done in partnership with the Vinton County Courier.

MCARTHUR — Vinton County has fought the designation of “food desert” for four years, and finally this year, they are seeing the results of the fight to bring fresh food to the county.

Campbell's Market in McArthur, as of an Oct. 4 post on the store's Facebook page.  Courtesy of Campbell's Market McArthur Facebook
Campbell’s Market in McArthur, as of an Oct. 4 post on the store’s Facebook page.
Courtesy of Campbell’s Market McArthur Facebook

Campbell’s Market is still under construction, but owner Rick Campbell is hoping to open the doors and hold a grand opening in the coming weeks.

Parking lots are currently being paved and utilities are being installed, making way for shelving units to go in the store, according to Campbell.

A groundbreaking was held in March, with county and state officials in town for the event.

The 12,000 sq. ft. Campbell’s Market of McArthur will bring fresh produce and meats to the area for the first time since 2013.

Since the SuperValu closed that year, the county came close to having grocery services a few different times. The Dollar General corporation floated the idea of a Dollar General Market, an expanded version of the store that includes groceries, but the idea never came to fruition. A meat market was also on the way to opening, but certification and regulation problems brought that project to a halt, according to reports by the Vinton County Courier.

Vinton County Senior Citizens Executive Director Rhoda Toon-Price said just in 2016, volunteers have traveled 150,000 miles, just to take senior citizens to adjacent counties to go grocery shopping.

“Because a lot of them can’t drive long distances,” Toon-Price said. “So having this new grocery store is going to give some of them back their independence, and that’s really important to us.”

The new store is a project the family owners say wouldn’t have happened without the help of a state agency’s funding.

Grants and loans totaling $1.6 million were brought in through the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which works with the Finance Fund Corporation.

The initiative is organized to “conduct a statewide quantitative research study to identify Ohio communities that lack access to healthy food options,” according to a profile of the Healthy Food Financing Initiative on the Finance Fund website.

“Without their commitment with their grant moneys and their funding we wouldn’t be able to do it,” Campbell said.

The Healthy Food Financing Initiative got to hear from Toon-Price as well, when they gathered at the Ohio Statehouse.

Even though she shies away from recognition, Toon-Price has had a storied part in the fight to rise out of the food desert. At the request of legislators and County Development Director Terri Fetherolf, she spoke at the statehouse, holding a now-legendary banana in her hand.

“I said, ‘how would you like to travel ten miles one way, and I whipped this banana out, to buy one of these,” Toon-Price said. “…Or would you rather go home and take potassium tablets? Well, I got a snicker out of the group.”

Despite the snicker, Toon-Price brought in support for Vinton County’s cause. She also brought home four boxes of fresh fruit, which had been centerpieces at the event.

“And (at the end of the speech) I did something I’ve never done before,” Toon-Price said. “I got up there and I yelled ‘the Campbells are coming! The Campbells are coming!’ and I walked off the stage.”

Campbell’s operates two other grocery stores, one in Duncan Falls and another in South Zanesville, and have been in the grocery business since 1930.