The Martins Super Market 22 store at 865 East Jefferson Street in Plymouth is one of a growing number of stores throughout the country offering the cart, and Martin’s is one of several national and regional grocery chains that is testing the product. Response from shoppers has been overwhelmingly positive, store managers say.
Caroline’s Cart was designed by Drew Ann Long, a mother of three from Alabaster whose daughter Caroline has Rett’s Syndrome, a nervous system disorder that has left her unable to walk, talk or use her hands. As Caroline grew, Drew Ann was frustrated by her inability to shop while pushing both a grocery cart and a wheelchair. She surmised that other families might have the same difficulty, and the vision for Caroline’s Cart was born.
The cart is being manufactured by Technibilt, a Newtown, NC-based company that is the world’s largest producer of grocery carts. Since the first carts were introduced, several independent grocery store chains have placed one in each of their stores, and national chains like Publix, Kroger and Whole Foods have established test markets like the one in Florence.
As word of Caroline’s Cart has spread in the special needs community, the concept has won people over. David Orfinik, the executive vice president of sales and marketing for Technibilt, is convinced that the cart is essential supermarket equipment. “You don’t realize the need for this product until you see it in the store.” Orfinik said, “And then you ask yourself, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’”
Michael Garry, a columnist for “Supermarket News”, offered a decisive endorsement of Drew Ann Long’s invention in a January column: “While I don’t normally plug products – whether for sale or store equipment like this shopping cart – I will make an exception here”, Garry wrote of Caroline’s Cart. “Every store should offer at least one.”
In 2012, Caroline was named a National Youth Ambassador for Easter Seals, an opportunity that gave a greater platform for her story and the cart that bears her name. Easter Seals has demonstrated its enthusiasm for Caroline’s Cart by making it the first product to be emblazoned with organization’s iconic lily logo.
Local resident Marla Murasko was very intrigued about the cart when she first learned of it in her special needs community groups, so much that she has interviewed Drew Ann Long for her SpecialMoms – A Special Needs Parenting Club for Mom Entrepreneurs website (http://specialmompreneurs.com). “When I first learned that Martin’s had the cart I ran right over, I wanted to see myself this wonderful product that has made such a difference for families with individuals with disabilities.” Murasko stated. “Shopping with an individual with a disability can be difficult. Whether it be a child or adult, this cart helps makes that task easier as the cart can hold an individual up to 250 pounds” Murasko mentioned.
Another local resident, who too was excited to learn that Martin’s had this cart is Faith and Tony Gamble. “Every family has a different reason why Caroline’s Cart makes shopping easier. We have a son that has Cerebral Palsy creating issues when we shop. Because of his CP we use a Wheelchair Stroller when we go to the store, which makes it tough to take him to the store alone. The use of Caroline’s cart allows us to leave the Wheelchair Stroller in the car” Tony said. From her own experiences with shopping with their son, Faith said “Let’s you have the ability to get groceries and not have to have a child running all over or having to push a wheelchair and pull the cart.”