After years involving setbacks, partnership changes, and disruptions caused by a global pandemic, Neighborhood Grocery has opened in Detroit’s Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood, fulfilling owner Raphael Wright’s vision to build a Black-owned space where Detroiters can access fresh food options close to home.
The market opened over the weekend with a limited inventory of fresh produce, prepackaged meats supplied by Fairway Packing and Creekstone Farms, and dry pantry and personal care items to a steady stream of friends and family who turned out to see the fruits of Wright’s labor. He told Eater on Sunday that he will continue to fill out the store’s offerings over the coming weeks as he collects feedback on the needs of customers.
“One word I could describe us as is grateful,” says Wright. “I look back at the stuff that happened in the past as far as delays and broken promises. It was all worth it. I’m here now and I’m grateful in the moment.”
Wright first set out to open a supermarket in Detroit in 2017, intent on competing with the suburban grocery chains that dominate suburban environments, but that are largely absent within Detroit city limits, save for the Whole Foods in Midtown and three Meijer locations. He previously wanted to call his concept Us Food Market and open locations throughout the city. For years, Wright tried to identify a building large enough to house such a space and in 2018 competed in the Hatch contest for a chance at $50,000 to help with opening costs. In 2021, construction began on what would eventually be known as Neighborhood Grocery in an old abandoned, 6,000-square-foot liquor store in Jefferson Chalmers, an area that has been the focus of redevelopment efforts in recent years.
Detroit has long had a reputation as a food desert. A 2017 study by the Detroit Food Policy Council shows that about 30,000 Detroit residents did not have access to a full-line grocery store. The last time there was a Black-owned supermarket in Detroit was 2014 when Metro Foodland on the city’s west side went out of business. In the coming months, another long-awaited fresh food option, the Detroit People’s Food Co-op — an initiative of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network — is expected to launch sometime in 2024 in the city’s North End neighborhood.
Still in the works at Neighborhood Grocery, a commercial kitchen, which will be used to make prepared meals that customers can take home or to possibly host chefs for pop-up events. Wright tells Eater that he is also interested in connecting with local artists to help design the interior of the space.
Neighborhood Grocery is at 500 Manistique and is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and is closed on Mondays.