EXMORE, Va. — When Painter native Warren Bailey moved back to the Eastern Shore in February to help his mother Bernice Stevens, little did he know he would soon help an entire community.
Bailey purchased a home in downtown Exmore, Va. at the corner of Commercial and Main streets. During its restoration, he struck up conversations with people who walked past.
He learned they were mostly neighbors from nearby apartments, without transportation, making their way to U.S. Route 13 for groceries — a minimum 2.6-mile round-trip.
“I saw people on foot, and in wheelchairs, going to Fresh Pride and Food Lion,” he said.
Bailey saw an opening to help. “I decided to step out in faith,” he said.
On Oct. 31, Bailey opened Exmore Community Grocery Store in the detached garage of his home, cutting in half the distance neighbors have to travel for essentials.
“I’m just trying to make life easier for people,” he said.
The store stocks mostly staples: bread, milk, eggs, spaghetti, tomato sauce and sugar are some of the items he carries. Potatoes and onions are in bins atop a country-style cupboard.
“I wanted a wholesome, country look inside,” he said.
Bailey also has a few prepared foods at breakfast and serves hot dogs for lunch.
“Sage Diner was instrumental,” he said, in helping him acquire equipment.
The store’s curb appeal is thanks to an earlier owner, the late Estelle Freeman, who built the spacious two-bay garage using Terracotta tiles for the garage floor and driveway.
“I never knew her, but I think she would be happy with what I did,” he said.
The outdoor tiles define a patio area surrounded by lawn. Bailey envisions utilizing the area in warmer weather for outdoor seating, grilling, and live music.
Bailey alone staffs the store, open Monday-Saturday from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m., and from 9 a.m. to 5 a.m. on Sundays.
“I am used to these long hours,” he said, from a long career in retail. He retired from Sears in Columbia, Md., in 2012.
Bailey said his motivation is not making money. “Very seldom to you get to fulfill a dream. I retired, opened a store, and I’m filling a need in the community,” he said.
“I just wanted to help people, and I’m delighted to do it,” said Bailey.