The unpackaged store offers bulk products and neurodiverse jobs

Part & Parcel | 600 Foster Street, Durham

Long before the pandemic, Jonah Sanville knew what it was like to take off a mask at the end of the workday.

During their first few years in the workforce, Sanville, who has autism, was candid with employers about their neurodivergency. But after realizing that employers weren’t willing to meet their needs as a person with a disability – and once told about Sanville’s autism, they would often treat them worse than their neurotypical colleagues – Sanville decided to do whatever he could to hide his disability.

“I did my best not to be autistic,” says Sanville. “It worked and worked until I couldn’t pretend anymore. So I would become autistic, or through my actions, I would become autistic and would be treated badly again. “

Sanville, 25, says they’ve worked about 12 different jobs since entering the workforce six years ago. But a new chapter begins: Last month, Sanville started working at Part & Parcel, a new dry bulk store in downtown Durham committed to hiring employees of all neurotypes.

“I’ve definitely had better integration here than in any other job,” says Sanville. “It was very tolerant and accommodating for my disabilities. “

In an effort to reduce packaging waste and promote environmental justice, Part & Parcel Bulk Grocery offers a packaging-free shopping experience, carrying items of dry goods, cleaning products and household products. bulk personal care. Customers are asked to bring their own containers – plastic containers, glass jars, tote bags – and fill them with goods, which are then sold by weight.

The interior of the store resembles the bulk section of Whole Foods, with large, see-through cases containing spices, nuts, beans, and a variety of flours, as well as dish soap, shampoo, conditioner and powder. lotion. Part & Parcel offers buyers an environmentally friendly way to source basic commodities without having to purchase bulk commodities, as is the case with the usual compromise with bulk buying. Due to the store’s proximity to the Durham Farmers’ Market, owner T Land said he anticipates Saturday morning shoppers will stop by Part & Parcel to get their produce dry after picking up produce at the market.

Land, the executive director of the Autism Support and Advocacy Center in Durham, opened Part & Parcel in May as an offshoot of their non-profit organization. Land says their decision to open the store was rooted in a desire to create employment opportunities for the neurodivergent community.

“I was running a program for high school students with autism, asking myself what they would do after graduation,” Land says. “[Students had] a lot of skills and assets that were ready for the job market, but it was really hard for employers to be ready to embrace the change.

With Part & Parcel, Land aims to create a space where neurodivergent people feel comfortable bringing their full identity to work and championing the tools they need to be successful.

“Masking [one’s identity] is exhausting and doesn’t help anyone be the most productive and the most creative, ”says Land.

To support their staff, Land allows employees to take breaks as needed, wear comfortable clothing, and help design organizational processes that are right for them. Working with employees who are visual learners, for example, Land has developed picture-based guides to illustrate tasks such as cleaning and restocking goods.

“This structure is very clear, it is very straightforward, it means that anyone can step in and know exactly what the expectations are,” Land said. “Most of the things you would put in place to support a neurodivergent employee also help your neurotypical employees. “

Beyond creating sustainable jobs, the packagingless store also strives to promote sustainability in environmental practices. About 30% of municipal solid waste in the United States comes from packaging materials, according to the EPA, with more than 30 million tonnes of packaging waste ending up in landfills each year.

“Most of the packaging is overkill to serve the convenience end,” Land says. “In stores, you will sometimes see three bananas on a styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic. Bananas have their own natural packaging!

North Carolina landfills are “disproportionately located in communities of color and low wealth,” causing long-term negative effects on residents’ health and property values, according to one Environmental health perspectives to study. Most of Durham’s waste goes to a solid waste treatment facility in Sampson County, where nearly a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line.

“It’s environmental racism,” Land says. “[The landfill] is there because white communities that have more power and more privilege make sure it’s not in their community.

Although the operation is currently on a small scale, Land has a number of plans to expand over the coming year, including expanding the Part & Parcel product selection and using the space to house a market. for neurodiverse providers. And the store is just the first part of the Autism Support and Advocacy Center job posting, Land says. They plan to acquire the apartment above Part & Parcel and turn it into an Airbnb unit, hiring neurodivergent employees to maintain it.

“Workplaces need to be able to see the strength and capacity of neurodiversity,” Land says. “We want to be the model for this. We want the community to see that it is repeatable.

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