About 40 years ago, a Guilfordian from Franklinville saw an opportunity.
CL Hickerson ’71 graduated from Guilford and spent a year with the Peace Corps before returning to Greensboro. At the time, he worked for a daycare services company delivering supplies to local daycares in the area.
“We bought our vegetables from a local wholesaler,” CL said. “I couldn’t believe the prices. If you bought a case of lettuce at a time it was cheaper than buying a head of lettuce at the grocery store.”
He surveyed friends and neighbors to see who might be interested in participating in a vegetarian buying club. Interest was there, so he bought a truckload of vegetables from the wholesaler and unloaded them in the living room of his home just off campus.
Following a series of changes, including years it was based in the basement of Mary Hobbs Hall, the club evolved into Deep Roots Market, a 2,500- member co-op. On the shelves of its new downtown store, shoppers can find produce grown on the Guilford College Farm.
The buying club has come a long way. When it was new, CL hosted potluck meals on Friday nights and invited the club’s members to pick up the items they had ordered. Years later a few of his friends kept the buying club going when he moved away.
As the buying club grew, space quickly became an issue and the club was moved to the basement of Mary Hobbs Hall at the College. In 1976 the club split into two storefronts with an expanded selection.
Antaeus, located downtown on Paisley Street, closed a few years after it opened, but Deep Roots Market, which opened an 1,100-square-foot store on Spring Garden Street, has thrived.
In 1990, again in need of more space, Deep Roots moved to a 2,400-square-foot space on Spring Garden Street. The market made its most recent move in March when it relocated to a 10,626-square-foot store at 600 N. Eugene Street. This downtown location offers fresh, organically-grown produce – including vegetables from the Guilford College Farm – and prepared foods through its deli-café.
Anyone can shop at Deep Roots Market, but many customers choose to become owners by making a one-time purchase of a share in the co-op. The share entitles its owner to extra benefits and provides needed capital to the market.
CL has since returned to North Carolina and said Deep Roots Market has exceeded his expectations. He never imagined the vegetable buying club would become a local favorite.
“It’s wonderful that they’ve been so successful, and I’ve enjoyed every stage of it,” he said. “I love that it’s a gathering place for the community, just like it was on Spring Garden Street some years ago.”
It was the professors, students and atmosphere of the College during the ’70s that inspired CL to start the buying club.
“I’m so glad I went to school at Guilford,” he said. “There has always been a sense of community on campus with such a welcoming atmosphere. Guilford has always been a fertile place for creativity.”