The Market opens to serve the community

The sign that greets visitors in front of The Market.
Photo by Heather Mason.

WCU students and area residents know that these are hard times. Climbing unemployment rates and fluctuating gas prices mean that every penny has to count. That is what makes The Market in Cullowhee a unique place to shop.

Located just across the highway from the WCU campus on Little Savannah Road, The Market not only offers deeply discounted groceries but also gives away free food. Shoppers can take home free bread, produce and milk when available.

The Market is run by Kenneth and Julie McKim of Higlands, N.C., who raised 13 children of their own and are acutely aware of how much money food costs. The McKims are members of Community Bible church in Highlands and the church was looking for an opportunity to make a difference in the community. After doing a demographic study, they found that Cullowhee showed a great amount of need as students struggle to make ends meet.

The Market is a non-profit organization that is church-backed and community-funded. When products are available, the store researches prices at other retail outlets and then discounts their products by a third and sometimes half of what Wal-Mart and other stores are charging. The Market accepts donations from area businesses and the McKims hope to extend their network of donors to include area farmers.  There is also a food assistance program in which those that qualify can receive free food monthly.

A selection of free produce offered at The Market.
Photo by Heather Mason.

“This is a ministry but we don’t want anyone to feel that they have to be destitute to come here,” said Julie McKim. “Anyone can come anytime. We want this to be a blessing.”

The Point coffee house is located next to The Market and is owned and operated by the same group. The Point offers a safe place for students to interact with each other, enjoy coffee, access free wireless internet, and study. There will be events including discussions, speakers, and live music.

“We want to have events directed to help people think through things that affect their lives,” Julie McKim said.  “We are working to make a difference in the community and our goal is to serve in a way that is respectful and honors each individual’s need.”

“We want to be inclusive, not exclusive,” she continued. “Everyone is welcome.”

The Market is opened on a limited schedule but will expand hours soon. The hours of operation are Tuesday, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Wednesday through Friday, noon to 6 p.m.  A website is in the works as well as design changes in the store’s appearance. The Point has its own Facebook page.