The Grocers On Wheels model was co-founded by Demetrius Hunter in 2013 when two Kroger store were shut down in Southeast Raleigh, NC. The goal was to serve the community’s need for access to farm fresh healthy produce in the then designated food desert area. It is based upon was first modeled 85-years ago by Mr. Zelb Hunter born 1921 in Clayton, Johnston County North Carolina. Mr. Zelb is the father of Demetrius Hunter, our Founder and Project Director. There Zelb Hunter and his father loaded a cart constructed out of a cut-off car trunk into a wagon drawn by a mule. Together they delivered fresh vegetables and fruit from Clayton to Raleigh, NC. As a young man Zelb also watched his father farm the land and Mr. Hunter begin to work in the tobacco fields. As an adult Zelb Hunter decided to grow a garden on his own and began to sell the produce he harvested throughout the city of Raleigh.
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For the six years Mr. Zelb was retired his son Demetrius Hunter was asked to revive the produce delivery business where he worked side-by-side with his father for nearly a decade. On November 1, 2013, with his then 93-year old father’s blessing and the communities support, Demetrius co-founded and launched, the evolved project concept “Grocers On Wheels” under his existing non-profit S.E.R.V.E. Mr. Zelb joined his son on the delivery route on the Grand Opening Day.
Demetrius Hunter is a native of Raleigh, North Carolina and proudly resides in Southeast Raleigh. He is the founder of S.E.R.V.E’s (Southeast Raleigh Vicinity Emerging) , a 21st century technology community outreach project.
Hunter said his prices are “affordable and convenient” – he takes advantage of relationships with growers his father developed over the years. Grocers on Wheels makes deliveries, but its main model is driving up with a truckload of produce and setting up shop on the spot.
“Our food is just as fresh as the farm,” he said.
He’s made trips into Durham in the past – there’s a regular stop each fourth Thursday, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Sisters Network on Fayetteville Street – but with the Whole Foods grant he and Woodley are adding.
“We are still adding places in our expansion and learning where we are most needed in Durham,” Woodley said.
Grocers on Wheels have a longer history, according to co-founder Demetrius Hunter.
“My dad, with his mule and cart, back in the Depression – he and his brother … sold directly to southeast Raleigh residents,” Hunter said. “I worked with him for 10 years, and that was helpful to me.”
His father’s example led Hunter and Anita Woodley to start Grocers on Wheels in 2013, taking produce for sale into a southeast Raleigh area when it’s’ only supermarket closed – leaving the area a food desert.