The Village Pantry cuts grocery bills

Imagine taking your grocery bill and cutting it by 40 percent.

Soddy-Daisy resident Kate Steward is making that a reality with The Village Pantry on Dayton Pike. The storefront, which used to be Broadway Furniture, is now filled to the brim with name-brand food — and most of it is reduced in price by at least 40 percent.

“We try to go as low as we can and still pay the rent,” Steward said. “The economy is bad. It’s not growing fast enough for people who are in trouble.”

Originally from South Africa, Steward has lived in Soddy-Daisy for the past 19 years and said she first got the idea for The Village Pantry when she came across a woman at a grocery store who couldn’t pay for a $2 prescription.

When Steward handed her $5, the woman expressed heartfelt thanks, saying she has children and she doesn’t know how she is going to feed them.

“There’s a lot of people battling,” said Steward. “I just thought, ‘There’s got to be something [we can do].’”

So she sold some of her own land, and used the money to open The Village Pantry.

She won’t give away her secret as to where she gets her merchandise. It comes in a bulk order, she said, and the store takes whatever is given through her suppliers. That means Steward doesn’t know what she’ll have available from one delivery to the next.

A recent visit revealed name-brand cereal, coffee, rice, jellies and jams, canned goods, dog and cat food, laundry detergent, cosmetics, baby food and more.

Approximately 99 percent of the merchandise is still labeled well before its “best buy by” date, she said. The only things the store doesn’t carry are produce and frozen or refrigerated items, and Steward said the store will soon be able to accept food stamps.

To help her open up the store, Steward enlisted the help of friends Robert and Doris Livingston. Doris Livingston serves as the store manager, having worked for Winn-Dixie for 13 years.

New resident Pam Prueitt moved all the way from California to assist with the handling of the store’s organic and gluten-free products. In California, Prueitt hosted a radio show called “Naturally Speaking” and also worked in health food stores.

Steward said she hopes to open up an entire section of organic and gluten-free merchandise in November.

“My passion is organic,” she said, explaining that she is recovering from breast cancer by using natural methods.

In other words, instead of using chemotherapy or radiation to treat the cancer, she completely changed her diet to eat only natural, organic foods. And she said she’s doing great.

The Village Pantry is located at 8949B Dayton Pike in Soddy-Daisy. To find out more, search for “The Village Pantry – Soddy Daisy” on Facebook.