Through grassroots effort, Tully gets grocery store

TULLY, N.Y. — On a cold winter day in February 2007, a ski shop in the village of Tully was heavily damaged in an early morning fire. The building would remain standing, but the beloved Clinton Street shop never re-opened.

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It was around this time that the village lost its only grocery store, an IGA supermarket located on Elm Street. Since then, residents have had to travel to Cortland or Syracuse to do their grocery shopping, or else rely on a limited number of goods sold at local gas stations and drug stores.

Nine years later, residents in the village of Tully are now within safe walking distance of a locally owned grocery store housed in a once-burned out building with a rich history.

The Local Food Market Tully officially opened in December on the ground floor of the newly renovated building. The store, located at 8 Clinton Street, is owned by Chastity Mydlenski, who also owns the Local Food Market in Cortland, known for selling organic goods and products sourced from local farms.

local food market tully

The Local Food Market Tully at 8 Clinton Street (All photos courtesy of Build Hope, LLC).

How it happened

When Beth Greenwood, a Tully resident, was in graduate school, she learned about a concept called social business, a cause-driven business model in which investors gradually recoup their investment but cannot take any dividend beyond that point.

Greenwood, who is also the mayor of Tully, thought the same idea could be applied to a locally owned grocery store.

“I came up with this kind of crazy notion that we could use that social business model on a local scale here in Tully,” Greenwood recalls. (The idea would later serve as her final project in graduate school.)

Greenwood and her husband launched Build Hope, LLC, and began encouraging Tully residents to invest or volunteer in a project that would bring a grocery store back to the village.

With the help of some initial investors, Build Hope purchased the 8 Clinton Street building at a tax auction and began to seek more investors for the project. The project went on to raise nearly $345,000 from more than 30 investors, Greenwood said.

With funding secured for the project, Greenwood and her family began personally gutting the interior of the building. She and her husband own several rental properties in the area, so the experience was not an unfamiliar one.

“We really enjoy old buildings,” she said. “Especially with a lot of the smaller, old downtowns, a lot of the old buildings fall into disrepair and you lose that character of the downtown.”

tully building interior

The interior of the Clinton Street building in May 2014.

“Folks have been thrilled”

The Local Food Market Tully is located on the ground floor of the building at 8 Clinton Street, with three apartment rentals on the second floor. Located in the basement of the building is Tully Women’s Fitness and Wellness, which offers yoga, Zumba and nutritional counseling classes.

Rent and utility costs will help Mydlenski, the grocery store owner, cover the cost of doing business until she can secure enough funds to purchase the building outright, Greenwood said.

Mydlenski says customers who visit the Tully store will find several products that are also sold at the Cortland location.

“To me, this day and age, there should not be a community that does not have access to healthy food,” Mydlenski said.

When reached by phone Thursday, Greenwood said she was optimistic that the project would succeed.

“Folks in the community have been thrilled to have a little store back open,” Greenwood said. “The wild theory seems to be working out in practice.”

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