RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Good Foods Grocery, a Richmond-based specialty grocer, hosted a field trip for a special education class from Hopewell last week after the non-profit Commonwealth Autism purchased the store in August. 

The store’s previous owner, Donnie Caffery, always dreamed of opening a specialty grocery store – and when he and his wife moved to Richmond in 1985, Good Foods Grocery came to life and has been a local treasure ever since. 

But this summer, after nearly 40 years of running the store, Caffery said it was time to pass the torch to an organization that will continue to help people. After meeting various candidates, Caffery and his staff agreed that Commonwealth Autism would be a perfect match. 

“Our mission statement has various factions to it, but one is to help. And it’s just basically helping people. And that’s what they do. They’re helping the autistic,” said Caffery. 

Caffery will continue to assist the President and CEO of Commonwealth Autism, Tyler Harte, for the next year while they transition.

According to Harte, the business will launch a workforce and training program for adults with autism in January, teaching job skills to help put them into more permanent and sustainable employment, as well as preparing them for an independent lifestyle. 

“One of our core values is being innovative, and we see this as an innovative opportunity that really meets a need that’s really developing in the autism community,” said Harte. “We’re really excited to try to tackle that problem.”

After learning that Commonwealth Autism had taken over, Karen Bowen, an education inclusion teacher at Dupont Elementary School in Hopewell, knew she wanted to take her students on a field trip there. 

“A light bulb went off in my head and I said, ‘I wonder if they would allow us to do a field trip there?'” said Bowen. “We wanted to introduce the students to activities and things that maybe they possibly wouldn’t get a chance to do outside of a field trip.”

Bowen’s class of five students with special needs were able to practice social and financial skills through a scavenger hunt – picking out ingredients for mac and cheese.

“We gave them a little budget of the amount of money that they would need to purchase those ingredients,” said Harte. “So, they actually went through the line, and they learned how to do that transaction from start to finish.”

Bowen said she was excited to see their excitement and thankful that there’s a place that is excited to have her class come and participate.