“Not too many years from now, when Indian Head is a bustling town that people from Charles County and the surrounding area are driving to so they can shop, dine and recreate, I’ll be proud to know I played a small part in it happening.”

If you’re looking for someone to bring valuable, relevant perspectives to the Oasis Advisory Council, you couldn’t pick a better person than John Flatley. He spent decades serving in the military before transitioning to a successful career in business.

Now the owner of La Plata’s Chick-fil-A franchise, he’s’ extraordinarily active in the community, and we were thrilled when he jumped at the chance to lend his experience and expertise to our efforts to bring a local, independently owned grocery store to Indian Head. His insights and collaborative approach have been so important throughout the process.

In our latest Advisory Council Q&A, John shares his thoughts on why Oasis is so desperately needed and how he believes this new grocery store will be the latest catalyst in Indian Head’s evolution into a more active, engaged and thriving community!

What made you want to join the advisory team for the new grocery store in Indian Head?

I’ve lived in Charles County for over 30 years, having been assigned to Andrews AFB in 1989. In all that time I’ve seen Indian Head fighting to remain viable and relevant. In my business, I’ve had opportunity to support the men, women and families working and living in Indian Head.

Through those relationships, I’ve heard the frustration of having to drive to another part of the county to shop for groceries and other household supplies. Once I met Mark and Marilyn Steele and heard their passion for not only bringing a grocery store to Indian Head but lighting a spark to reignite a strong business community to serve the Navy base and residents of Indian Head, I was hooked.

What unique value or perspective do you bring to the advisory team?

My 21 years of military service, 19 years in business here and over 30 years as a county resident have all helped me bring perspectives to planning and decision discussions that I think have helped Mark and Marilyn make great decisions.

What have you seen as the biggest challenges in bringing the store to Indian Head?

I’d say finding the funds to purchase and renovate the property. Marilyn, Pam Frank and Sandy Washington have worked a ton of hours applying for grants. Mark and Marilyn have also invested heavily from personal funds and obtained loans to fill the gaps.

What hasn’t been a challenge is convincing the residents and workers in Indian Head that Oasis is going to change their lives. We’ve heard from hundreds of folks how desperately they want this store to open and how happy they are to see it coming to downtown Indian Head.

How do you think the new grocery store will most benefit local residents?

Unfortunately, Indian Head is a certified food desert. We’ve heard from residents who don’t have transportation, who commute long distances to work and don’t want to commute to shop, and employees at the base who plan to stop by and shop on their way to or from work. They are hungering for Oasis to open and relieve their hunger for a place to buy fresh fruit, quality meats and brand name foods they can’t otherwise get locally.

Add Papaleo’s Ice Cream, an enlarged and improved public parking lot and the open space next to Oasis, and I foresee a place where families and friends will meet to shop and enjoy conversation over a cup or cone. It’s about so much more than just providing sustenance. It’s about building community and another step toward rejuvenating a once-vibrant community.

How do you think the new grocery store will enhance the town of Indian Head overall?

Ten or 15 years ago, I made the mistake of saying to a local businessperson that Indian Head was at the “end of the highway.” I was quickly corrected when she said, “No, Indian Head is the beginning of the highway!”

I believe Oasis is going to spark other retail investment in Indian Head, and I see a future where Indian Head is viewed both here and around Charles County as located at the beginning of the highway.

What have you learned from the experience of working with this advisory team?

This advisory board is a great team with a variety of strengths. We don’t always see things the same way, but we all are willing to listen and consider each other’s points of view while discussing opportunities. I give Mark and Marilyn great props for putting together a volunteer advisory board and for allowing our input to influence their decision making. Working with this team has been an absolute pleasure. The Steeles have surrounded themselves with wise and knowledgeable people. I’m honored to have been included.

What does this grocery store coming to Indian Head mean to you?

I look forward to jumping on my motorcycle with my wife, Michelle, and riding the back roads to Indian Head to meet with friends over an ice cream while seeing what latest item Oasis is offering that we can add to our pantry or refrigerator. More importantly, not too many years from now, when Indian Head is a bustling town that people from Charles County and the surrounding area are driving to so they can shop, dine and recreate, I’ll be proud to know I played a small part in it happening.