January 20, 2016
Tully gets its own grocery
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Joyce Welitschinsky and her husband, George, of Cuyler, check out their groceries Tuesday at the Local Food Market in Tully, assisted by employee Vanessa Smydra. The store, which opened in December, is owned by Chastity Mydlenski, who also owns the Local Food Market and Whole Hearts Cafe in Cortland and Oh My Goodness Whole Foods in Homer.
TULLY — For years, Tully residents had a host of choices in where they could do their weekly grocery shopping: They could go north on Interstate 81 to Syracuse, or south to Homer and Cortland. They could go east to DeRuyter, or maybe to Nelson. But they couldn’t shop in Tully.
They can now. Chastity Mydlenski, owner of the Local Food Market and Whole Hearts Cafe in Cortland, and of Oh My Goodness Whole Foods in Homer, has opened a grocery in Tully. Like its partner stores, its products center around locally produced and organic foods.
“It’s wrong for a community not to have access to healthy food,” Mydlenski said Tuesday. “They had all these great things except the food part.”
The Tully store opened in December, less than a year after Mydlenski opened her Cortland store. At 1,500 square feet, it’s smaller than its 7,000-square-foot Cortland cousin, but it’s a full-service grocery: meats, produce, dairy, grocery and all. The next closest store — other than a dollar store and a gas station — is12 miles away at the IGA Foodliner on Main Street in Homer, or Oh My Goodness a block north of that. Other groceries range from14 miles away in Syracuse,15 miles to stores in Cortland and up to 20 miles away in Nelson.
It’s the first food store in Tully in at least a decade, and one the community was so anxious to get that Tully Mayor Beth Greenwood led a local effort via Build Hope LLC to buy and renovate the Clinton Street building, which used to house Tully Lakes Ski Shop, damaged in a 2007 fire.
“My way of thinking about food has changed radically over the years,” said Vanessa Smydra, who lives next door to the store, and now works there. For years, she’d have to plan expeditions to Cortland, Syracuse and even DeWitt, but not anymore. “What’s in this store is how I eat,” she said.
“You could see the need and the want,” Mydlenski said. About30 residents came up with $342,000 to buy the building and renovate it.
Besides the grocery, it now houses a fitness center and three apartments. Mydlenski is paying rent to Build Hope, but will eventually own the building in her own right.
Mydlenski has now opened three groceries and a cafe since 2010, all featuring local and organic products.
“As unprofessional as it sounds, I’m just winging it,” Mydlenski said. “I don’t plan on becoming a chain by any means.”
Mydlenski just loves the building, which dates back to the middle of the 19th century. She had been watching and waiting for it to come on the market since the February 2007 fire. Greenwood called Mydlenski in December 2014 — the same week the Cortland store opened — guess what building had just come on the market?
She paired her love of the building with her desire to promote organic and local foods.
“I take such pride in supporting local people,” she said, but she admits that Tully shoppers will need some educating.
“If they’re price-checking, I’m very competitive with box-chain stores,” Mydlenski said. “We really try to have the best customer service. It’s about showing their business is important to us.”
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