Dozens of people darted their grocery carts through the aisles of Wellburn’s Market on Friday morning, scooping up everything in sight after store owners contacted local charities to pick up food.
In November the store was forced to close when sewage flooded the basement, causing an early permanent closure. Owners had originally planned on closing at the end of May to make way for a new development.
For two weeks after the flood, said co-owner Victor Lum, they couldn’t access the store. That resulted in two construction bins worth of produce and perishables being thrown out, a sight he didn’t want to see again.
“I just hate to see food go to waste,” he said. “We want to get all the stuff out, especially from the coolers so we can decommission the cases.”
Now that the store has to be out by the end of the month, the Lums and friends reached out to local charities to see if they were interested in taking any of the leftover food. The response was immediate, with four charities already at the doors by 9 a.m. Friday morning.
Half of the products in the store are still available! pic.twitter.com/AdqhH3bbmw— Nicole Crescenzi (@NicoleCrescenzi) January 10, 2020
One of them was the 9-10 Club, the soup kitchen behind St. Andrew’s Cathedral. Patrick Plunkett and his wife, Linda Plunkett, were on scene gathering carts full of canned tomatoes, kidney beans, salt, margarine and other staples for soup.
“We serve around 150 to 170 bowls of soup per day,” Patrick said, “We’ve got an immense amount of stuff, the tomatoes alone… I’ve got to load up my RAV4 – I’m afraid my shocks are going to go under.”
Linda also focused on grabbing some tasty sweets, including cakes and soda.
“I feel like I’ve won that Ellen DeGeneres game where you’ve got a few minutes to fill your cart at Walmart, except here I can just come back,” she said.
As of mid-morning, St. Vincent de Paul, St. John the Divine, the Victoria Women’s Transition House Society and the 9-10 Club had already filled their first round of cars, with more charities on their way.
“It’s just incredible,” Patrick said. “It’s unfortunate that it worked out this way [for Wellburn’s], but it would be more unfortunate if this stuff went to waste.”
Everything needs to be cleared from the store by the end of January, when it will be boarded up and closed for good after 105 years in business.
“I really want to thank all of Victoria for supporting us all of these years,” Lum said.