Saturday, November 17, 2007

Long way to the grocery store

There used to be a grocery store two blocks from here that I enjoyed walking to when I needed a loaf of bread or an extra can of soup, but it relocated about a year ago while several larger chains moved into new shopping center developments a couple miles away in opposite directions. Before it relocated I noticed several changes taking place in the store's inventory. It was a small store to begin with, only 8 aisles counting the produce on one side and frozen foods/dairy aisle on the other. So when little cheap dollar-store items started to occupy two whole aisles, I wondered what was going on with the store's business model. A few months after this inventory change, the store closed down to relocate to a vacant spot in a shopping strip near the mall. The grocery store seemed to be doing solid business as there were always a dozen or more cars out front in what you'd consider slow traffic times. And when it was busy, it was VERY busy. And it was right on the busline. This is an older section of town, heavily populated with lower middle income families who benefited greatly I'm sure from the close proximity of this supermarket.

There are a couple Family Dollar stores nearby, including one in the same parking lot as the vacated grocery store who seemed to coexist just fine, and there are three or four convenience stores within walking distance, all of which sell basics like bread and soup and milk. But none of them sell fresh meat or vegetables, which are clearly necessities.

The building that housed the grocery store is still vacant. I've been toying with the idea of drawing up a plan to re-open a grocery store in that location, and have a cousin in grocery store management that would be a big help to pull it all together. But because this is a lower middle class/upper poverty class neighborhood I'm concerned about crime and don't want security costs to eat up all the budget and potential profits. So I was thinking about trying to round up people in the neighborhood to come together to make it a community-owned store, thinking that having ownership interests would inspire people to exert a little extra effort to both respect and protect their interests. I'd also designate part of the parking lot for a farmer's market/flea market setup, since we have alot of that kind of activity on street corners around here. This would give them a safer place to set up, and more freedom of movement and parking for their customers. I'd try to establish a little sandwich/coffee shop in one corner of the store, in maybe a bar-type seating arrangement. What do you think?

Like I said, I'm just playing around with the idea, because I personally want a grocery store within walking distance again, and I prefer locally owned businesses to big box cookie cutter chainstores. I don't have the money to actually do it, but with a little encouragement I could draw up a helluva plan for it.

Here's an interesting article discussing the lack of grocery stores in poorer neighborhoods.

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