My “neighborhood” supermarket is less than one mile from my house.
I routinely go there, primarily for convenience…and for “staples” – newspaper, bread, eggs, milk, meat and vegetables.
Admittedly, not as often, and a bit out of the way, I also patronize the Shoprite at Cheltenham Square Mall.
To those of you unfamiliar with Philadelphia, Cheltenham is an integrated neighborhood/community that has a predominantly Black residential base.
The Cheltenham Shoprite is an anchor for the “urban” Cheltenham Square Mall, along with a Burlington Coat Factory, a Home Depot and a brand new Target.
To its credit, the Cheltenham Shoprite has long been a beacon in the community and paved the way for other businesses to prosper.
I shop there for multiple reasons –
The primary motivation is what I term “cultural choices.”
The Shoprite carries what my (more upscale) neighborhood market does and does not –
Greens(collard, turnip, mustard), Sweet Potato Cheesecake (Stop and ponder that one for a moment), Smoked Turkey Parts (How else would one ‘season’ their greens?), Black Hair Care Products (Did somebody say Pro Line?) and Sweet Mixed Pickles (not to be confused with relish, sweet mixed pickles add just the right ‘flavor’ to potato salad).
The other reason(s) that I choose to patronize this particular Shoprite are articulated in the attached article -“A Man of Smiling Success”
The store’s owner, Jeff Brown, has dedicated himself and his business to “bringing good food to long-ignored neighborhoods.”
He has not only invested in the community, but the supermarket has been a conduit for employment in the community.
Brown says, “I would rather hire someone who hasn’t worked in eight years but loves people than someone who is more qualified.”
There is a phenomenon spreading across a great number of inner cities today.
“The flight of the urban supermarket.”
In inner-cities like Detroit and Baltimore, supermarkets are leaving.
Abandoning the neighborhoods and communities that for so many years sustained them, forcing consumers to either rely on alternatives (Convenience Stores, Drug Stores or Mom and Pops) where selection and cost-savings are increasingly absent.
This understandably is having a devastating impact on communities and the spirit and well-being of the people who live there.
The model implemented by individuals like Jeff Brown is encouraging.
This is true, not just in terms of addressing the “flight of the urban supermarket.” It fuels an even more compelling goal, reversing the erosion of urban America.
The health of these communities and their ability to prosper has a direct impact on all of us – regardless of where we live.
When urban communities and neighborhoods experience growth and prosperity, all communities benefit from the residual.
The conversation is about jobs, economics, people, pride and, once again, empowerment.
In this instance, the empowerment conversation shifts from the individual to the community.
Healthy communities produce healthy and productive citizens and this is a model for success.
One that, when implemented, will pay dividends for years to come.
Having lived in Detroit and now Scranton – I have had to adjust to the fact that there are no turnip nor mustard greens to be found. Okra is out of the question and a smoked turkey neck for seasoning -no way. I was left I buy frozen or canned by Sylvia. Well, now my local market has discontinued the “Sylvia” section of canned goods. The good news is that my local Chinese restaurant does a mean collard greens dish seasoned with sesame oil.
In Detroit I often complained that I had to go to the northern suburbs to go the the big grocery store – but I was always able to get my greens (and fried catfish for that matter) at the many ‘corner stores’ in Detroit.