Percy "Master P" Miller and his son Romeo Miller have partnered with Rouses Markets to open Guste Grocery, a supermarket designed to help the more than 400 elderly, disabled and low-income residents of Guste Homes Senior Facility in New Orleans who were previously living in a food desert, according to WWL 4.
Residents of the Central City area told WWL 4 that there is limited access to fresh food and that most people have to shop for groceries from a corner store with limited supplies.
The new Guste Grocery is not only bringing fresh food to the elderly but also providing Black cooks and farmers with a place to sell their food.
“This is such a blessing to be able to do this in the community where I grew up. It is challenging to get fresh produce and other necessary items when you do not have access to a grocery store because you don’t drive or you are disabled; this will allow the seniors to come down in their own building and have the access," Percy said in a statement.
“When I started making my own money, one of the first checks I wrote was to help Guste Homes, this senior community is very near and dear to us. We can’t forget those who have given us so much,” Romeo added.
Residents said they have been begging the city for some kind of fresh food market for years but their urgent wishes went unmet.
“We’ve had a lot of issues in this community with corner grocery stores, and nobody has done anything about it," Cynthia Wiggins, president of Guste Homes, told WWL 4.
“We have been trying for four years to get this market done for our seniors. This community is a food desert, so this market is critical to us; we are grateful to Master P and Rouses for making it happen,” Wiggins later said in a statement.
Guste Grocery will be open from Monday to Friday and there are already talks between Rouses, the supermarket chain backing the project, and the Housing Authority of New Orleans to open more supermarkets at five other locations to address the food desert issue.
According to Nola.com, Rouses will train residents to run the market.
The market was somewhat controversial because Rouses has been embroiled in controversy in recent months, according to WWL 4.
Donald Rouse Sr., the founder of Rouses Markets, caused outrage in January when he attended the Jan. 6 attack on Congress that took place in Washington, D.C. Some Louisiana residents had called for a boycott of the supermarket chain.
Those in attendance at the opening of the market acknowledged the controversy.
“I wasn’t involved in the controversy. That’s something my dad did on his personal time. It doesn’t involve Rouses supermarkets. We’re a good company, we have over 7,000 great employees. We serve thousands of customers every day, so we’re here for communities like we’ve always been. We’re going to continue to grow with our communities,” Rouses Markets CEO Donny Rouse Jr. told WWL 4.
Rouse Sr. has apologized for going to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 and was at the event to inaugurate Guste Grocery but did not speak.
Percy defended him when asked about the controversy.
“None of us out here can point the finger and say is your life perfect? Have you done everything right? We’ve been here a long time. Every time we asked people to do something, nobody showed up. I’m happy and excited they showed up,” Percy told WWL 4.
Wiggins similarly defended the Rouse family, saying flatly, “What they’re doing here is what this community needs, and if anybody rejects what they’re seeing, then sorry for them.”
Percy later took to Instagram to tout how the two-pronged effort would help Black farmers and the residents of the area. He noted that the area is where he grew up and where Romeo was born.
"Black owned products in @rousesmarkets creating economic empowerment. We have a real plan of action. We are getting black owned products into Rouses supermarket in New Orleans. This is how we create economic empowerment. This is only the beginning! Salute to Rouses for being a part of this movement. #Godisgood It’s all about locals helping locals. That’s how we rebuild our community," Percy wrote.