Inspired by their son, Jamie and Jilea Hemmings opened an autonomous grocery store called Nourish + Bloom Marke—the first contactless grocery store with robotic delivery in the United States and the first Black-owned autonomous grocery store in the world.
Initially planted in October 2020, this idea is the first of its kind to be opened in the Trilith’s Town Centre retail and restaurant district in Atlanta. It was created to offer locally sourced craft items, such as produce, meats, baked goods, dairy and prepared meals, alongside everyday convenience items with no checkout.
The Hemmings began their startup journey years ago after their eldest son, Jabari, 14, was diagnosed with autism when he was two years old. The family turned to a healthy diet to ensure Jabari received adequate nutrition. They even started a food company with their own line of frozen food to put a healthier spin on children’s favorite foods.
“We’ve always made sure we’ve fed him a pretty clean diet just to help him with his overall success,” Jilea told 11 Alive. “Not only children with autism need to eat healthy, everyone really. So we thought about what we could do to support the community.”
When their family moved to Atlanta two years ago, the Hemmings decided to combine their food and tech background into establishing Nourish + Bloom with a team of employees.
Using “frictionless shopping,” the husband-and-wife duo created Nourish + Bloom to make eating healthy convenient with revolutionary technology. The benefit of autonomous shopping, vending, and robotic delivery means customers have 24/7/365 access to real food and environmentally friendly products anytime.
“You would nourish your soul so that you’re able to bloom and grow,” Jamie said. “That’s where the name came from. Customers can actually use their phone, have their payment info on it. They’d scan a QR code, the turnstiles would open up, and then from there, cameras and the weighted shelves would be able to connect that information together. Whatever items they pick up in the store automatically show up on their digital cart on their phone.”
This technologically advanced market features a state-of-the-art coffee machine, a bistro that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as drinks inspired by the Hemmings’ Caribbean and New York origins. Additionally, customers within three miles of Nourish + Bloom can utilize the all-terrain temperature-controlled delivery robots. Although customers have the autonomy to shop, employees can assist with contactless and traditional checkout.
“There are so many people that have come before us and paved the way,” Jilea said. “But it’s a tremendous honor, and we just want to be on the forefront for what technology looks like, especially for Black and brown young children. How do we embrace and bring them into robotics, AI, and autonomous and show them this is the future? This is the way we’ll be operating moving forward.”
The couple plans to expand Nourish + Bloom to as many as 400 stores nationwide. They have partnered with Coca-Cola and Microsoft, among others, to create STEM and mentorship programs for underserved kids and teens through the store.