The Investigators: Quitman County will finally get its first grocery store in 3 years

Updated: Oct. 22, 2020 at 10:44 PM CDT
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QUITMAN COUNTY, Miss. (WMC) - For years now, the people of Quitman County, Mississippi have been without easy access to fresh food.

The WMC Action News Five Investigators exposed how the county’s residents have been living in a certified food desert after its only grocery store closed in 2017.

Since then, several people stepped in to help and now that help is bearing fruit.

The former Super-Valu in Marks will soon re-open as Jeffcoat’s Family Market.

“It’s sort of a relief,” Velma Wilson, Quitman County Administrator, said. “It’s been difficult – a lot of hurdles to overcome and mainly, the financial piece was the biggest piece.”

Wilson helped secure $200,000 in state money for the store.

Back in March, the Investigators were working on a story about how the money would go toward renovating the building.

Sav-A-Lot had also agreed to put a franchise at this location at the time.

Then COVID-19 hit. Our story – as well as Sav-A-Lot’s plans for a new store – were put on hold.

“We cannot put this on hold because of the need that’s here,” Wilson said.

So the County moved forward and used the state money to make exterior and interior building upgrades.

Wilson also went to work finding a new owner to move in.

Long-time grocery operator James Jeffcoat owns a store in Tunica County, Mississippi.

Soon, he’ll expand business to the space in Marks.

While he denied our request for an interview at this time, he told us he’s excited about the new location.

A feeling that’s shared by Marks Mayor Joe Shegog, Jr.

“People are going to be glad to have it, proud to have it back and I think people are going to participate and come in and shop,” Shegog said.

Right now, Quitman County residents must travel to either Batesville or Clarksdale to grocery shop. It’s a 30 minute drive for most.

The pandemic has added another layer of concern for the county’s largely elderly population.

“With the pandemic going on, I’m a little weary of going to Batesville straight down today because the stores are so full," said the Mayor.

Though Shegog says the store in Marks will need customers in order to stay open long term.

“We invite the public to come out and shop with us here in Marks,” he said.

Wilson wants those in neighboring counties to shop here as well.

But mostly, she hopes for those in Quitman County a simple trip to the grocery store will soon be just that: simple.

“This is a family market, a community store. We want the community to embrace it,” Wilson said.

Wilson has applied for a USDA grant that would award the county money to make additional upgrades to the store. She will hear back on her application in November.

A soft opening for the store is planned for December while the ribbon cutting is planned for January.

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