In Detroit, some 30,000 residents do not have access to a full grocery store, according to a 2017 study by the Detroit Food Policy Council. As a result, some experts have characterized certain parts of Detroit as “food deserts” due to a lack of affordable and healthy food options.
According to the president and CEO of Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers, Auday Arabo, there are no Black-owned grocery stores in Detroit. The association represents more than 4000 stores in Michigan, Ohio, and surrounding states.
Although the city is 80% African-American, its last Black-owned grocery, Metro Foodland, shut its doors in 2014 after three decades in business on the city’s west side, according to Online Business America.
Black entrepreneur Raphael Wright is looking to change that by opening a grocery store in Detroit, making him the only Black grocery owner in the city. His ambition is to use the grocery as a stepping stone to redevelop neglected communities.
“A grocery store is the start of that process of getting the community redeveloped, getting populations to come back to their certain areas,” he told Michigan Radio. “You have to have food there, where you can’t live somewhere where you don’t have access to food.”
Making a profit is central to many businesses but for Wright, it is not so crucial. He has seen investors undertake projects in Detroit and are mainly motivated by money without having the interest of the people at heart.
“I want to help people and I want us to be happier, healthier, and more united. And that’s more important to me, to financial profit,” the 29-year-old told MichiganRadio.
He is crowdfunding to raise funds to build the grocery store which will offer a wide selection of items ranging from fresh produce and local products to the city’s east side. That part of the community largely remains a “disinvested area.”
“There’s nothing that’s walkable or nothing that delivers food of a healthy variety or a whole variety in that neighborhood,” he said.
Wright resorted to crowdfunding to fund his grocery store because of the lack of interest by big investors in the small margin of profits businesses like his generate. “Instead of begging to be at somebody else’s table or knocking at somebody else’s door,” he said, “We created our own platform and do what we need to do for ourselves.”
Since he started his gofundme campaign in 2017, he has raised some $60,000 and mostly from Detroit. He also revealed that the construction on Neighborhood Grocery has already started and hopes to provide varied options like prepared meal options and other locally made products.