When Jason Aviles moved into artist live/work space Shipley Lofts, he soon learned one of the downtown area’s major drawbacks: buying fresh groceries isn’t easy if you don’t have a car.
“The idea was to create a solution to food access,” Aviles said, an hour before the soft launch of Wilmington Green Box, as the sound of music from the Ladybug Festival fills the air.
“Literally, I had to carpool whenever I could to go food shopping,” he says. Not an ideal situation for the approximately 4,000 people living in the 10-block radius of downtown, nor for the boom in downtown living spaces that draws new residents who want to work and live in the city.
Last summer, Aviles and business partner John Naughton rolled out Wilmington Green Box as a mobile food cart that brought locally-sourced healthy foods directly to residents, while offering employment opportunities to at-risk youth from the neighborhood.
“We didn’t have funds, we didn’t have money, but we had a vision,” Aviles said. “We found an old freezer out of a 1940s Victorian home, and we turned it into a mobile cart. It was a huge success.”
With the support of Downtown Visions and the Buccini/Pollin Group, the nonprofit — now expanded to include Creative Director James Thompson, Youth Supervisor Emmanuel Knotts and Event Coordinator Jasmine Brown — has a home on Market street, just above 4th Street.
The small strip of green space had sat empty and unused, with a a mural of inspirational text surrounding it. “I had my eye on it for a while,” said Avila.
The owner of the space liked the idea of turning it into a functional space to benefit the community, and allowed the Green Box team to transform it. The transformation included the addition of new mural art by Smash Label.
They would need a kiosk for selling produce and other healthy (and local) products. With a limited budget, they knew they would have to build it themselves — and, as luck would have it, the collaborative makerspace NextFab, with its large state-of-the-art construction shop, opened its doors in June. They were able to arrange to use the facility to build the structure:
When the Green Box officially launches on Monday, July 24, it will be open weekdays, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., offering not only affordable fresh foods and healthy drinks from locals like Juiced Libations and Myster Lemonade, it also offers a public green space to sit and relax. Entertainment such as open mics and live music is planned for the space, both during and outside of regular business hours.
In the words of Avila, it’s “a win-win-win for the community.” We’ll eat to that.-30-