Nourish + Bloom is the next generation of neighborhood market

The Fayetteville market is the world’s first Black-owned autonomous grocery store

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Nourish + Bloom Market
Owners Jamie Michael Hemmings and Jilea Hemmings

Photograph courtesy of Nourish + Bloom Market

When you step into Nourish + Bloom Market, the first thing you come across is a screen providing instructions on making the most of your experience—the first step being to download the store’s app. Then you scan a QR code, enter the grocery area, grab what you need, and walk right out. A receipt appears in your inbox.

Opened last year by Jamie Michael Hemmings and Jilea Hemmings, Nourish + Bloom is the world’s first Black-owned autonomous grocery store. The Hemmingses were motivated by their son’s autism diagnosis, beginning their journey into the food industry first by researching the role that diet can play in his growth and development. In 2019, when the couple relocated to Georgia from Chicago in order to be closer to family, they quickly noticed the lack of access to healthy food options in their area.

Part grocery store and part bistro, the shop is tucked into Fayetteville’s Trilith Town Centre’s retail district area. “We felt like this community needed a market, so we wanted to build one for the future that was pandemic-proof,” said Jilea Hemmings. Regardless of whether or not staff members are sick—or considering varying work shifts and life schedules—folks in the community still have access to what they need; the market is open 24 hours.

Though the shopping experience is fully automated, Nourish + Bloom still employs staff. “Our whole goal is about increasing access to better food options and utilizing the latest in technology to drive increased access, but not losing the human experience,” Hemmings told me. “We still have staff in our store to help you navigate, help you learn about new products, all of those things that make the journey pleasurable, but taking away things like the friction of fumbling for your payment.” There’s also a staff-run kitchen on the bistro side, serving bowls, burgers, sandwiches, vegetables, tacos, and more, plus Jamaican food on Saturdays.

Today, more than a year after its January 2022 opening, the Hemmingses are working on expanding, Hemmings said: “We’re part of a smart-city project where we’re going to be putting Nourish + Blooms on the east side and on the west side of the BeltLine.” They’re also looking into a location in the West End, as part of an overall vision of making healthy foods more accessible in Atlanta. Access isn’t just about location, though. “There are no autonomous grocery stores at this time that take EBT or SNAP,” Hemmings said, referring to government assistance for low-income families. “An entire population of people are left out and can’t shop with this new technology. That’s a problem for me. We’re going to be the first to take EBT and SNAP.”

This article appears in our June 2023 issue.

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