When country star Brad Paisley and his wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, decided to open a free grocery store to support the Nashville community, they had no idea that every facet of daily life would change. But now, one year after opening its doors, the project is a bigger success than they imagined.
Situated in the Edgehill neighborhood of Music City, The Store is a referral-based grocery store that provides free food and household supplies to those in need. It was the brainchild of the Paisleys and opened its doors on March 12, 2020 — just a week and a half after devastating tornadoes struck the area, and four days before COVID-19 forced the nation into lockdown.
As quick as it began, in-person shopping at The Store came to a halt. But the Paisley’s mission never changed, and now their looking back.
“When we started dreaming about creating The Store years ago, we never imagined we would open our doors just days from catastrophic events–the tornadoes and then the pandemic–that would greatly impact the need for assistance in our community for months and months to come,” said the Paisleys in an official statement.
Just after opening, The Store pivoted to delivering groceries to seniors (so they didn’t have to risk going out in public), and offering curbside pick up. They started with 45 deliveries per week but the service has grown exponentially, and now they drop off free supplies for 450 households, while curbside pickup is at 200 per week.
The Store’s food comes from Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, Sysco, Fresh Point, and local growers such as Old School Farms and includes both perishable and nonperishable offerings. All the food in The Store is selected to be both nutritionally beneficial and fresh, and clients are referred to the service by 15 local aid organizations. It operates in partnership with the nearby Belmont University, and one year after opening, the need it was designed to meet has sadly only grown. But luckily, the Paisleys are in it for the long haul.
“We couldn’t have opened The Store without fantastic community involvement from many people and organizations, including Belmont University, our board, staff, referral partners, volunteers, donors and the Edgehill community,” they say. “None of us could have done this alone. We are definitely Better Together.”