Mayor Pro Tem David Martin and Houston City Council approved Mercato, Inc. for a pilot program to connect residents in underserved neighborhoods with their local grocery and specialty food markets using eCommerce and subsidized delivery options. The partnership was approved Nov. 3.
Through this partnership, led by Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department (HCDD) and the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, dozens of stores across the city will begin offering their inventory online and via local delivery.
“We are excited to build the capacity of our neighborhood grocery stores using Mercato’s eCommerce platform,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Local stores in underserved neighborhoods like our Complete Communities often do not have the resources to introduce innovations like online ordering and delivery. With the ongoing pandemic, small stores are facing greater resource challenges, and residents in underserved neighborhoods are facing food insecurity. This partnership with Mercato serves both residents and grocers by keeping the resources in their neighborhoods, helping independent food stores compete with larger chains and bringing residents greater access to healthy meals.”
Since its launch in New York City in 2015, Mercato, now based in San Diego, has expanded operations to 45 states nationwide, including Texas, and facilitates delivery for more than 1,000 independent grocery and specialty food stores across the country. Already established in cities such as Boston, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles Mercato launched in the Houston market earlier this summer.
The council-approved pilot program, allowing up to 40 Houston grocers to onboard to Mercato’s platform at a substantially discounted rate, will begin with enrolling local grocery stores in late 2021. Each selected merchant will work with a Mercato representative to use the mechanics of the eCommerce platform, to upload the store’s inventory, track orders, and process payments. Grocers will then be able to make use of all Mercato’s tools and benefit from the company’s ongoing consumer marketing campaigns. Independent grocers interested in learning more can apply to participate here: https://market.mercato.com/city-of-houston-merchants/ .
“Having grown up in Brooklyn, the son of a local Italian grocer, I realize the challenges faced by small store owners. I also understand the deep-rooted desire of owners to serve residents in their community,” said Bobby Brannigan, CEO and founder of Mercato. “We are excited to be working with the City of Houston to empower independent markets while improving access to quality food for Houstonians living in underserved neighborhoods.”
The second part of the pilot program, expected to launch in early 2022, will allow HCDD to provide 1,000 households with a no-cost Mercato Green subscription for one year, allowing eligible customers to receive unlimited, free grocery delivery within a five-mile radius of their home. Further details on qualification criteria and application processes for customers will be announced later this year. Funding to support both grocers’ and consumers’ subscriptions will be provided through Community Development Block Grant Economic Development (CDBG-ECD) funding, provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.