The Nicest Place in Rhode Island: Belmont Market in Wakefield

NICEST PLACES IN AMERICA 2020 FINALIST
"Raising Money for Local Causes"

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A grocery store scales to meet new needs for the elderly in town.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Belmont Market in Wakefield faced a delivery crisis. The usual load of 20 online orders per week had ballooned to 60 per day. “Phones rang off the hook and during the first few days 1,000 people were trying to log in [to our website],” Susan Hoopes, the market’s marketing director, told Reader’s Digest. “People called the third week in March to book orders into May.”

Belmont is an upscale grocery store, bakery, and café in the quiet New England hamlet of Wakefield, a town of 8,500 just minutes from the Atlantic Ocean. After days of turning down seniors requesting delivery or pickup services, management met to discuss how they could best serve the community during this tough time. After consulting with local service organizations, including the Lions Club, the South Kingstown Elks, the Southern Rhode Island Volunteers, the Union Fire District, and the South County YMCA, they knew what to do.

First, the café, which could no longer serve customers in person, was converted into a phone bank for taking orders. Volunteers, supplied with masks and hand sanitizer, took orders in the morning and shopped and prepped items for delivery in the afternoon — and then made the actual deliveries. Capacity doubled quickly.

“It was a community-wide effort,” says Hoopes. “It was touching to see everyone get together and get it done.”

Belmont Market exteriorCourtesy Susan Hoopes/Belmont Market
When operating as “normal” was no longer an option, Belmont Market found new ways to serve the community.

When locals saw the group effort, they called and sent cards of thanks and to see how they could help make it bigger. The pandemic was preventing local nonprofits, including many of those helping the market feed the community, from holding fund-raisers. So Belmont created a fund-raising drive for them. Customers added tips to their orders and donated to the fund.

By the end of May, the small community had raised $15,000. Belmont Market’s owner, Jack Siravo Jr., added another $18,000 and donated the entire amount to the organizations.

“They are what a small business in the community should be all about,” says Deb Tanner, executive director of the Southern Rhode Island Volunteers.

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