Browse Tag

Grocery store

8 mins read

‘A blessing to the community’: New Black-owned grocery opens to serve small Delta town

WEBB — Marquitrice Mangham didn’t just want to create the grocery store her hometown desperately needed. She wanted to bolster the Delta’s long-struggling food system.

Enter Farmacy Marketplace: A neighborhood grocer that isn’t just the first store in decades to offer Webb shoppers fresh meat and produce, but also a steady marketplace for small-scale farmers to sell their crops.

Farmacy Marketplace
Credit: Eric Shelton/Mississippi Today

“A huge amount of food waste goes on in the Delta because everything is so sparsely populated,” said Mangham, who heads the nonprofit that runs the new Tallahatchie County grocery store. “No supermarket business is going to contract you to buy 20 pounds of tomatoes every couple weeks.”

But the Farmacy Marketplace can, giving the region’s struggling small-scale farmers a more reliable income and the people of Webb access to produce without driving a half-hour to the nearest grocery store.

The Mississippi Delta may be known for its fertile soil, but its major farm operations largely grow soy and corn for animal feed rather than produce the food the region’s population actually eats. There are few industries and jobs outside of agriculture. In most Delta counties, the poverty rate is between 30%-40%.

The Delta is also covered with what the U.S. Department of Agriculture calls rural food deserts: low-income tracts where a third of the population lives more than 20 miles from the nearest large grocer. Mangham hopes what she’s creating at Farmacy Marketplace will become a model for other communities.

Webb is home to just under 400 people and is 97% Black, according to the latest Census data. Before Farmacy, shoppers seeking poultry, steak, fresh fruit and veggies needed to drive 25 miles to Walmart in Clarksdale or 18 miles to SuperValu in Charleston.

Farmacy Marketplace
Credit: Eric Shelton/Mississippi Today

“It saves people money and instead of investing in gas, they are able to purchase more groceries,” said Webb Mayor Michael Plez.

The new store is in the heart of the town’s Main Street, meaning many citizens can walk to go shopping.

Clad in a green apron and wide smile, Mangham’s mother is one of the store’s workers. The community has rallied around the store, desperate for it to be successful and volunteering their time so their neighbors have a reliable place to purchase healthy food.

Credit: Eric Shelton/Mississippi Today

Mangham lives in Atlanta part-time and is regularly in Webb to manage the shop and run a 150-acre family farm. Her nonprofit, In Her Shoes, aids women experiencing homelessness in Georgia and offers farm training in Mississippi. The shop is operated under the nonprofit using USDA grant funds.

Farmacy Marketplace had its soft opening on Oct. 7 — timing that couldn’t have been better. The local Dollar General, which may not have had fresh food but plenty of essentials, burned down the week before.

Credit: Eric Shelton/Mississippi Today
The only store that provided groceries in Webb, Miss. was lost during a fire. Marquitrice Mangham decided to open Farmacy Marketplace to fulfill the need for a grocery store in the town.

Dollar General said in a statement it was still assessing the store’s future. Mangham has added more household essentials to the store’s inventory to help make up for the loss of the community’s only major retailer.

Feeding America, a national food bank organization, reported that 31% of Tallahatchie County’s Black community was food insecure in 2020, the latest data available. That rate measures access to food between finances, transportation and physical grocery stores.

The easiest food to get in Webb — before Farmacy opened — was frozen dinners or pizzas, chips and candy.

Mangham’s vision isn’t only about giving Delta communities a more reliable food system and economy, but also making them healthier with access to unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods.

Black-owned grocery
Credit: Eric Shelton/Mississippi Today

On a recent Friday afternoon, Demetrice Starks, 54, was browsing the new grocery store with her 86-year-old mother. Starks grew up in the area and now lives in Memphis. She hadn’t been to a neighborhood grocery like Farmacy in the area since she was a child. They had all closed up as people moved out.

Much of Webb’s population is aging, and it gives Starks peace of mind that her mother no longer has to drive so far to get items for supper.

“It’s a symbolism of growth and rebuilding the community,” Starks said. “It’s helping bring some type of stability.”

black owned grocery
Credit: Eric Shelton/Mississippi Today
Lonzell Wright is in and out of the shop regularly, able to easily get supplies for his burger-and-fries restaurant called Zell’s that’s down the street. When Plez, the mayor, has a taste for steak, he can just walk a few minutes to the store and buy what needs that night for dinner.
black owned grocery
Credit: Eric Shelton/Mississippi Today

“Since the day it opened it has been a blessing to the community,” said Plez.

Mangham has other goals in mind: a local poultry processing facility Delta farmers can use so the store’s poultry is coming from the community and further creating jobs. She’s busy writing proposals for more grants.

She is partnering with a nearby community college’s workforce training program so students can get retail job experience at the store, earning $10 an hour. There are three participants so far.

The store is open seven days a week. On Nov. 1, it began accepting Electronic Benefit Transfers, or EBT payments, for those on food benefits. It’s another big step that will help the community, Mangham said.

People want to shop and work where they live. It’s simple, yet not the norm across the Delta’s rural towns. People want to see the program succeed, she said.

It’s not just a grocery store; it’s the town’s quality of life.

by Sara DiNatale, Mississippi Today

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

3 mins read

Black Owned Grocery Store Receives $2.5 Million Grant

Forty Acres Fresh Market is a startup grocer founded in 2018 by Liz Abunaw in response to the lack of fresh food options on Chicago’s West Side.

Forty Acres Fresh Market
Liz Abunaw

As much as Liz loved offering fresh produce at pop-ups, farmers’ markets, and a grocery delivery service, her dream was to open a brick-and-mortar store.

It seems her dream has come true. The city of Chicago is backing the development of a Black-owned supermarket with a $2.5 million grant, funded under the Chicago Recovery Plan.

The Chicago Recovery Plan Community Development Grant program will offer small grants up to $250,000 and large grants up to $5 million. Business owners can apply online. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, with a first-round deadline on Jan. 31 and a second-round deadline on March 10.

For Forty Acres Fresh Market, the grant will fund part of the construction costs, including plumbing, mechanical and electrical work for things like refrigerators and freezers. They expect to apply for construction permits in the coming months. Construction will begin once the city approves the permits, a process that could take three to five months.

Tracy Smith has been with Forty Acres since the beginning.

“It’s very exciting,” Smith said. “I’ve never been a part of anything like this … I’ve seen Liz do everything, from the first events to finding a location where they wanted the store … Every time we go over there to get something, someone asks when it is going to open.”

The store will fill the gap in mid-sized grocery stores, allowing residents to stock up on daily food items between major shopping trips. The store will be full-service, with a range of fresh fruits, veggies, prepared foods, frozen items, a refrigerated section and dry goods.

Bringing a grocery store to the area will improve more than just food access, Abunaw said: A grocery store is part of a neighborhood’s social infrastructure that builds cohesion in a community and benefits all businesses along the corridor. The increased foot traffic and local dollars being circulated within the Austin community can “slowly start to shift the perception that there’s nothing on Chicago” Avenue, she said.

“We want people to start associating good shopping experiences with Austin,” Abunaw told Black Club Chicago. “It’s not just buying food. It’s the people, it’s the customer service. It’s the frozen food aisle and discovering new things you didn’t even know you needed.”

Don’t miss any articles! Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn & Twitter.

5 mins read

Why Are There So Few Black-Owned Grocery Stores?

The full-service supermarket that Circle Food Store owner Dwayne Bourdeaux runs in New Orleans’ Seventh Ward is clean and stocked with locally sourced produce that arrives with days to spare.

Dwayne Bourdeaux, owner Circle Food Store

The butcher cuts meat daily in the store and offers not only standard cuts, but also items that are locally popular—raccoon, pig lips, pig ears, rabbit, and so on.

Concerned about the rate of diabetes and hypertension among African-Americans—the majority of his customers—Bourdeaux not only sells healthy food, but also incentivizes it by offering $5 worth of free, fresh produce to those who spend $5 on it.

“You should serve the community, because it’s not all about making money,” says Boudreaux, an African-American in his early 40s, who lives seven minutes from the store he has worked at nearly his whole life, before taking it over from his father. “I’d sell more liquor, alcohol, cigarettes, and fried foods if I wanted to make more money.”

Dwayne Boudreaux in Circle Foods.

Dwayne Boudreaux in Circle Foods. (Photo courtesy of Hope Credit Union)

But, he continues, “to be a part of the community, you don’t take the money out of the community and not reinvest it back into it. It’s like a family—you have to nurture it, you have to provide for it, you have to look out for people. To be a part of the community, you have got to care.”

His is a rare success in Black and brown communities nationwide, but not for lack of effort. In fact, Boudreaux is one of the nation’s few remaining Black people operating full-service supermarkets.

No organizations track the number, but sources familiar with the situation and some of the remaining grocers suggest that fewer than 10 Black-owned supermarkets remain across the entire country.

And the number continues to shrink: In the past two years alone, Sterling Farms in New Orleans, Apples and Oranges in Baltimore, and several branches of Calhoun’s in Alabama have all gone out of business.

This is problematic because strong anchor businesses like grocery stores can serve as the center of neighborhood economies, recirculating local revenues through wages and nearby businesses. They can also be neighborhood hubs, where people go to buy good food as well as employment centers and sources of community pride.

Kia Patterson, owner of Compton Grocery Outlet

But where there are no grocery stores, or where they’re not enmeshed in the fabric of the community, problems arise: Grocery store ownership directly ties to larger struggles and themes like economic stability, self-determination, power, control, and racial and class stratification, says Malik Yakini.

Yakini is the director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, an organization that builds self-reliance, food security, and justice in Detroit’s Black community. When a neighborhood loses a local grocery store, he says, the African-American community essentially becomes what he describes as a “domestic colony.”

“[Black neighborhoods] are seen as a place for the more dominant economy to sell things,” Yakini says. “We’re more interested in building community, self-determination, and self-reliance. We’re interested in being more than consumers of goods that others bring to sell, and often goods that are inferior to what’s sold in the white community.

“We’re not a place to dump cheap goods,” Yakini continues. “African-American communities need to be producers of goods and stand eyeball to eyeball and shoulder to shoulder to other economic groups. Those that haven’t are subject to all sorts of abuse.”

Read the full article at Civil Eats


Related:  First Black Owned Grocery Store Franchise Opens in Compton

2 mins read

First Black Owned Grocery Store Franchise Opens in Compton

The first Black owned grocery store franchise opened in Compton a few months ago. This “Grocery Outlet” franchise is owned and operated by 36 year old, Kia Patterson.

In March of 2013, the USDA officially labeled Compton as a food desert. Residents have not had adequate access to essential dietary foods such as fruits and vegetables.

Over a year ago, the Grocery Outlet building was home to another grocery store chain which closed and left Compton residents with one less place to find food for balanced meals.

Now residents can get organic products and other items for up to 60 percent off compared to brand-name items that can be found in traditional grocery stores.

The store is also creating jobs for locals, including members of Kia’s family.

So far, reviews from customers have been very positive:

Amber M: “Hands down the BEST deal you will find on great wines from all over the world….

I met the owner, Kia, while I was there and she was super friendly and make some great recommendations. The prices are seriously amazing. They have a great selection.

I don’t live anywhere near Compton, so I understand if you think it’s a crazy trip, but if you’re even remotely in the area it’s seriously worth stopping by. You’ll be in wine heaven. Cheers!”

Sunny G: “Lots of great things about this market: Many organic options at low prices.
Niche items, Friendly staff. Local beers and wines. Clean and bright. Delightful owner who seems to be hiring locally.”


Grocery Outlet is located at 2175 West Rosecrans Avenue in the city of Compton and is open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Huge congrats to Kia! If you are anywhere near her store, please go and show your support! Tell your friends and family in the California area also.


Check out this Facebook video of a tour of the store and a brief interview with Kia.


by Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson