Groceryland becomes an island of hope in the food desert on Springfield's Southside

The southwest corridor of Springfield was quickly identified as a “food desert” when Kroger closed the doors of its South Limestone Street location in March of 2020.

But thanks to the “see a need, fill a need” mentality of Dr. Vipul Patel and business partner Ravindra Patel, the location once again serves as an oasis of nourishment for residents in the area.

Dr. Vipul Patel, a local physician who has served Springfield residents since 2003, and Ravindra Patel, president of Groceryland, Inc., will hold a Grand Opening and ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Groceryland at 9:30 a.m. Monday, December 20, following the store's soft opening earlier this month.

“Dr. Patel has many patients from the Southside of Springfield and patients all over Springfield,” says Ravindra Patel. “He saw a need for fresh food (when Kroger and Aldi closed) on the Southside.”

As part of its Restock Kroger plan the company donated the building and equipment to the City of Springfield following its closing date, and it offered employees positions at different Kroger locations.

Kroger also contributed $31,500 to support a shuttle service from the South Springfield area to other area grocery stores. Kroger has two additional locations in areas further North, which posed a transportation concern for many residents who relied on the convenience of the South Limestone Kroger location.

Eight mobile pantries were disbursed throughout the South corridor of Springfield and Kroger contributed $19,500 to the food bank.

Despite these efforts, about 22,000 Springfield residents were affected by the closing.

Dr. Patel approached Ravindra Patel, and the two formulated a plan to fill the need for fresh food in an area ripe with fast food restaurants. The business partners later proposed their idea – Groceryland – to the City of Springfield officials as a solution to the food desert.

After a site visit to another Groceryland location, City officials were on board with the investment.

Groceryland began renovations on the former Kroger location at 1822 South Limestone St. earlier this year. The investment includes $2 million in property improvements to the former Kroger space.

Groceryland – Springfield will offer a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, a deli, and an in-house bakery.

“We opened the store with the perception of providing fresh … products and provide jobs for the local community,” says Ravindra Patel. “Dr. Patel wants to serve the community … that’s his heart behind this.”

Ravindra Patel says the Groceryland – Springfield store employs close to 80 people already, and they hope to hire more. Groceryland offers competitive wages, and future goals include expanding the location and later offering a mini-clinic.

The first 50 customers at the Grand Opening event Monday will receive gift cards. Customers will also be safely offered food samples and various other promotions.

Groceryland-Springfield will be open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Hours will vary on holidays.

“I am excited to have the store open,” says Ravindra Patel. “I have seen lots of smiles and appreciation from customers. I have seen the customers supporting each other.”

Read more articles by Darci Jordan.