By Juliet Martinez
A grocery store on the 4800 block of Second Avenue could succeed, concludes a feasibility report commissioned by neighborhood community groups. The study anticipates that as Greater Hazelwood’s population grows, demand for convenient, affordable groceries will increase along with it.
The study, conducted by Oak Moss Consulting & Associates, forecasts the Sarah Dixon Project grocery store will open in 2026. If half of the grocery dollars now spent in the 15207 ZIP code are spent there, the store will be financially viable, the report says. However, three quarters of the neighborhood would need to shop there to keep it open if surrounding neighborhoods do not support it.
Saundra Cole does not see this as a problem. The POORLAW founder said Greater Hazelwood residents are “Really excited about having a grocery store in our community again,” when we spoke on the phone in early June.
So far, Ms. Cole said, POORLAW’s information gathering has shown that 43% of Greater Hazelwood residents are traveling to the Walmart in West Mifflin to do their shopping. She said they like it because it has everything they need, from groceries to furnishings, and the store accepts food assistance vouchers.
“If they want to get a baby crib, they can get a baby crib,” she said, “But they are more than happy and willing to shop at a local community store owned by the residents of that community.”
When I spoke on the phone with Ms. Cole and Pastor Lutual Love of GH-CARED in May, they said they had surveyed 375 residents and continue towards their goal of 500 respondents.
One innovative feature of the Sarah Dixon Project is cooperative ownership. Pastor Love described this as a three-tiered co-op: The first is the land and the building, which community members will be able to buy into and be part owners of. The second tier is the employee-owned grocery store. The third tier is the consumer membership co-op.
“It's designed for the people in the community to own this store,” Pastor Love said. “That way, we don't have to worry about the developers coming out and saying, ‘Oh yeah, we have not made enough profit so we can close the store up.’ No. That's not going to happen.”
The survey POORLAW conducted was funded by a grant from the Heinz Endowments. I spoke on the phone with the foundation’s director of community and economic development, Rob Stephany, in June. He said neighborhood organizations like Community Kitchen Pittsburgh, Dylamato’s Market, and Fishes and Loaves have responded to food insecurity and the lack of accessible grocery shopping in a host of creative ways.
“Obviously, having a grocery store in the neighborhood would be a wonderful addition and solve a host of issues,” he said. “We’re glad folks picked up the mantle to drive the process forward and [we’re] looking forward to reviewing the plans they are working on.”
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