Six Yale undergraduates have launched a grocery delivery service, called the Closer Grocer, that will deliver groceries to students’ dorms.
Last spring’s closing of the New Haven branch of Shaw’s, a Massachusetts-based supermarket chain that had operated a store on Whalley Avenue for 12 years, has left downtown New Haven without a major supermarket. Some Yale students were worried the city would become a “food desert,” without access to cheap, healthful food. And so last year, when Shaw’s announced that it was closing its New Haven branch, Andrew Macklis ’13, Noah Sheinbaum ’13, Sunny Kumar ’13, Keila Fong ’13, Adam Weser ’13 and Akshay Gupta ’13 came up with the idea of delivering groceries.
“Our mission is to provide affordable and convenient access to groceries to the Yale/New Haven community,” said Macklis, chief executive officer of the Closer Grocer.
On a weekly basis, the Closer Grocer will deliver $10 worth of food or more from various grocery stores to students’ dorms, which students can request through the company’s online catalog of beverages, snacks, breakfast items and party supplies. The company also offers “party packages,” which include cups and mixers at discounted prices. For all items, the delivery fee will be built into the prices.
There will be no delivery fee, although a $20 annual subscription fee will eventually be required to maintain an account on the company’s website. For now, though, the subscription is free for new members, said Kumar, the company’s chief financial officer. The founders will pick up the groceries by car and deliver the goods to students themselves.
The Closer Grocer is not the only Shaw’s alternative students will have this year. The residential complex on 360 State Street plans to open a food cooperative in March 2011, and the Yale College Council, the Ezra Stiles College Council and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate will all offer shuttle services that will bus students to and from the Stop & Shop Supermarket in Hamden on a weekly basis.
The co-founders of Closer Grocer said they are confident their venture will be successful with students in their target demographic.
“Our customers may not have the time to physically travel to a supermarket, or may just appreciate the convenience of having their groceries delivered up to their dorms,” said Sheinbaum, the chief operating officer. “We think we will still have success.”
Students, though, had mixed reactions about the new venture.
Yemile Bucay ’13 said she is more likely to use the YCC shuttle service than the Closer Grocer.
“Why wouldn’t I take the shuttle to the grocery store?” said Bucay. “It’s free.”
Christina Wakefield ’11, who lives off campus, also said she would choose the cheaper option.
Other students questioned the economic and cultural implications of the new service. Ilana Harris-Babou ’13 worried that the new services would hinder the development of a new grocery store on the Shaw’s lot.
“It’s also sad that we live in a culture where people can’t leave their houses to get groceries,” said Harris-Babou.
But Julius Mitchell ’13 said he was excited about the prospect of a grocery delivery service.
“Hell, yeah!” Mitchell said when asked whether he would subscribe to the Closer Grocer. He said that it would be convenient now that Shaw’s has closed.
The Closer Grocer began accepting sign-ups Monday.