In 2020, Brad Paisley and his wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, partnered with Belmont University to open The Store, a free grocery store in Nashville. The Store, located at 2005 12th Ave. South, is a food pantry modeled as a grocery store.
During a recent interview with NBC Nightly News, the couple reflected on The Store and what it means to give back to their community, particularly during a devastating pandemic.
"I knew there was a need, but it's not until you open something like this that you really see it," Paisley said. "People were in tears. It was really a rewarding thing in the middle of one of the most challenging times we've ever seen."
Williams-Paisley explained that the overall goal of The Store is to help community members become self-sufficient overtime.
"Our idea is to get people back on their feet on the road to self-sufficiency so they won't need us in a year," she said.
Watch the interview below.
The Store officially opened its doors on March 14, 2020 and, since then, has delivered nearly 1.3 million meals.
"This has been our dream," Kimberly Williams-Paisley told People in April. "People will be able to come and shop with dignity and make choices for their family."
In March of 2020, the couple celebrated the one year anniversary of The Store's opening.
"We hit our one year milestone this month at @thestore_nashville! This was a challenging and fortuitous time to open a free grocery, as the number of people facing food insecurity jumped in Nashville (as it did in many parts of the country)," Williams-Paisley wrote on Instagram. "We couldn't have done it without our wonderful board, hardworking staff, volunteers, corporate sponsors, generous donors and our partner @belmontu. THANK YOU everyone! To learn more, visit www.thestore.org#loveatthecore 💚"
Over the past year, the couple has continued to benefit the community by raising funds for The Store. Paisley performed during Live Nation's "Live at the Drive-In" concert series and, during the performance held at Nashville's Nissan Stadium, Paisley raised $26,000 for the free grocery store.
"I'm told that those of you who hit the tip jar on our @facebook live broadcast from the Nashville show raised 26k for @thestore_nashville !!" Paisley wrote on Instagram. "Thank you! I know these are trying times, thank you for helping to feed people. #liveatthedrivein"
Nashville Tornado and COVID Relief
"It's easy to feel lost right now. It turns out, our little charity endeavor @thestore_nashville has fortuitous timing," Brad Paisley wrote on Instagram in March of 2020. "Due to the work of many dedicated volunteers, partners and donors, The Store has been able to open earlier than anticipated. We can now serve the needs of the community beyond the initial scope of our original mission."
In the video shared on social media in 2020, Kimberly Williams-Paisley says "we're offering aid to the families affected by the recent tornado in Nashville and also the Coronavirus outbreak."
In 2020, The Store began delivering a week's worth of groceries to elderly Nashville neighbors in Edgehill and Berry Hill. Nashville residents who need to be included on this list can contact [email protected]
Paisley, the president of The Store's board of trustees, told The Tennessean that the purpose of the grocery store is to help those who've fallen on difficult times by treating them with kindness and dignity.
"This is a grocery store with dignity for people who have fallen on hard times," Paisley told The Tennessean. "All of us are one unforeseen disaster away from rock bottom. It's nice to think about a place where when that happens to someone, they can use it to get back on their feet."
Partnering with Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, The Store offers fresh and non-perishable foods to those in need for one year. Non-profit organizations and government agencies will refer customers to The Store.
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Paisley told The Tennessean that the couple got the idea for The Store after taking their kids to volunteer at Unity Shoppe in Santa Barbara, California around Thanksgiving. The Unity Shoppe offers free groceries, free school clothing and supplies, job training and other essentials.
"It was inspiring because these people have dignity," the country music singer said. "It's not a scene from 'Oliver Twist.' These people are able to sit there and feel very, very normal in the eyes of their kids. I remember ... thinking, 'Why isn't this everywhere?' Essentially, we got this idea that it could be a very effective thing in Nashville."
During the holiday season, The Store has a free toy aisle. The non-profit will accept donations for new, unopened toys.
The couple received a $1.5 million 2Gen Family Wellbeing grant for The Store from the Department of Human Services.
"Through the work of our Ministry Center and our partnership with Brad and Kimberly on The Store, Belmont is deeply committed to providing services to underserved children and families in our community, and this 2Gen grant from the Tennessee Department of Human Services will significantly enhance the scope and delivery of the services we offer," Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher said. "We are grateful for their belief in our work, and I'm excited to witness how this grant expands the impact our students, faculty and staff can have on our neighbors."
The organization also provides on-the-job training.
This article was originally published in 2018. It was updated on Nov. 5, 2021.
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