Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

98. Wendell Pierce

Pierce, pictured here in New Orleans City Park, will use Sterling Farms supermarkets and Xpress mini stores to improve access to fresh produce in poor communities.

The Oasis In The Food Desert

On HBO’s Treme, Wendell Pierce, a New Orleans native, portrays a jazz musician navigating a post-Katrina world. Offscreen, he’s a cofounder of Sterling Farms Fresh Foods, a new grocery business aimed at providing fresh food for the 23.5 million Americans who currently have little or no access to it. "We’ll come to those neighborhoods where other grocers decide there’s no economic base for it, or too many crime risks," says Pierce, who works with his partners to direct funds from the New Orleans Fresh Food Retailer Initiative to landlords of the new stores, in exchange for lower rent and speedier building restoration. The first store opened this spring in Marrero, Louisiana, just outside of New Orleans. Dwight Henry (who played Wink in Beasts of the Southern Wild) runs the store’s bakery. Pierce, who hosts community crawfish boils to drum up attention, says the idea is bigger than groceries. "We could build all our homes back [after Katrina]," he says, "but if we don’t bring commercial districts back, it’s going to be a problem."

[Photo by Brady Fontenot]