Detroit entrepreneur hopes to be the city’s only black grocery store owner
Raphael Wright is the only black grocer in Detroit to crowdfund. He plans to open Neighborhood Grocery to offer a wide variety of items ranging from fresh produce and local produce to the east side of town.
“There is nothing walkable or nothing that provides food of a healthy variety or whole variety in this neighborhood,” he said.
Wright reached out to small investors to help bring it to market, as traditional lenders tend to oppose the grocery stores’ low profit margins.
“Instead of begging, sitting at another table, or knocking on someone else’s door,” he said, “we have created our own platform and do what we have to do for ourselves.”
Wright has raised nearly $ 60,000 since starting a GoFundMe campaign in 2017. The investors are all from Michigan, he said, and are receiving equity in the grocery store to create a sense of collective ownership of the company. Wright added that he will match investor contributions dollar for dollar and that additional donors have also contributed to the fundraising effort.
According to a 2017 study by the Detroit Food Policy Council, around 30,000 Detroiters do not have access to a full grocery store. Experts have called some parts of the neighborhoods “food deserts” due to a lack of affordable and healthy food.
This is something Wright wants to change, starting with the business he plans to open in a closed grocery store in the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood. For him, food should be the starting point for revitalizing the local economy.
“A grocery store is the beginning of that process of re-developing the community and moving people back to their designated areas,” he said. “You have to have food where you can’t live somewhere where you don’t have access to food.”
The lifelong Detroit resident said he watched investors move into town and take on projects that put their own interests before the needs of the community. “I want to help people and I want us to be happier, healthier and more united. And that’s more important to me in order to achieve financial gain. ”
Construction of the neighborhood grocery store has already started. Wright hopes the grocery store will offer a range of items, including ready meals and locally made items, by the end of the year.