By Grace Edwards
Geography matters when it comes to grocery shopping. Dianne Shenk, owner of Dylamato’s Market, said she and other Hazelwood stores offer one big advantage: location. “We’re competitive because people don’t have to travel.”
Even with a convenient location, Ms. Shenk added, free home delivery is critical for many Hazelwood residents. Dylamato’s offered the service during the height of COVID-19, and she witnessed the need for it. “I was delivering to people who are blind, in wheelchairs, communication impaired. People need home delivery and can’t afford a delivery fee.”
Community groups working to build a full-service grocery store on the 4800 block of Second Avenue cleared several hurdles in November. Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority [URA] agreed to give Greater Hazelwood Coalition Against Racial and Ethnic Disparities [GH-CARED] temporary control of the site. The Heinz Endowments pledged funding for a feasibility study on the proposed 40,000 square foot commercial building to house the co-op grocery store and other businesses. And Hazelwood Initiative [HI] voted to give them site control of a building it owns on the 4800 block for the feasibility study.
Javon Marshman of Hazelwood welcomed the news. He buys snack items in the neighborhood but said it’s harder to find “actual food, like stuff for dinner.” Mr. Marshman said he usually hires a car to take him to the Squirrel Hill Giant Eagle for about two weeks’ worth of groceries at a time.
Coming soon: Grocery delivery pilot program
Saundra Cole McKamey, co-founder of People of Origin Rightfully Loved and Wanted [POORLAW], the parent organization of GH-CARED, said she saw it, too, when POORLAW and other community groups delivered thousands of meals each month during the pandemic.
Praise Temple Deliverance Church, in collaboration with POORLAW and GH-CARED, is preparing to launch a grocery pickup/delivery service. They are working with Oasis Grocery Direct on a six-week pilot program.
“This gives us a chance to learn about food patterns and spending in our community,” said Pastor Lutual Love, who leads Praise Temple Deliverance Church and is a founding member of GH-CARED. They plan to offer delivery services when the grocery store opens.
For now, they are seeking 30-50 families to sign up for the pilot program. Participants would be able to place orders two or three times a week by phone or online. Their orders would be filled by local distributors and shipped to Praise Temple Church at 5400 Glenwood Avenue. GH-CARED will contact participating families when their orders arrive. The families can then pick up their orders at the church or have them delivered at no charge.
Transforming a food desert
Vince Toley, a resident of the Hazelwood Healthy Active Living Center, said if he could shop on the 4800 block he wouldn’t have to go elsewhere for groceries. “The whole building would love that.”
“Rite Aid doesn’t have vegetables,” Mr. Toley said. “You might find a box of cereal—at astronomical prices.” As a result, he buses to the Greenfield Giant Eagle for most of his shopping.
“This is not new—people have been saying the same things over and over but not being listened to,” Ms. Cole McKamey said. “We are addressing the food desert situation in the community.”
Ms. Shenk said she foresees “either neutral or positive” effects on her business if another grocer opens in Hazelwood. She said when La Gourmandine first opened, Mildred Williams, the baker who supplies Dylamato’s, wondered how it would affect her sales.
“She was worried, but she got busier,” Ms. Shenk recalled. “Her pastries are different, and more people came to Hazelwood looking for pastries. The same thing will happen if more people come to Hazelwood looking for [other] food.”
Residents of surrounding neighborhoods expressed support for a neighborhood grocer as well. Melanie Moore of The Run mainly shops at Aldi on the South Side, but travels elsewhere for items like deli meat and rotisserie chicken. She likes Mercato’s in Oakland for homemade foods, but added that they close early. Ms. Moore said her family would happily buy groceries at the 4800-block location. “My dad is all about convenience—whatever is closest.”
Join the grocery store pilot program. If you are interested in signing up for the program, contact Pastor Love at email@example.com or 412-277-0113.