Meet the Detroit man seeking to construct the city’s only Black-owned grocery store
In Detroit, according to a 2017 study by the Detroit Food Policy Council, around 30,000 residents do not have access to a full grocery store. As a result, some experts have referred to certain parts of Detroit as “food deserts” due to the lack of affordable and healthy food options.
There are no black-owned grocery stores in Detroit, according to Auday Arabo, president and CEO of Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers. The association represents more than 4,000 businesses in Michigan, Ohio and the surrounding states.
Although the city is 80% African American, Metro Foodland, the last black-owned grocery store, closed its doors in 2014 after three decades of doing business on the west side of the city, according to Online Business America.
Black entrepreneur Raphael Wright wants to change that by opening a grocery store in Detroit and making it the only black grocer in town. His goal is to use the grocery store as a stepping stone to clean up neglected communities.
“A grocery store is the beginning of that process of redeveloping the community and returning the population to their designated areas,” he told Michigan Radio. “You have to have food where you can’t live somewhere where you don’t have access to food.”
Making a profit is central to many businesses, but it’s not that important to Wright. He has seen investors run projects in Detroit and is mostly money motivated with no focus on people’s interests.
“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, ”the 29-year-old told MichiganRadio.
He is funding crowdfunding to raise funds to build the grocery store, which will offer a wide variety of items ranging from fresh produce and local produce to the east side of town. This part of the community remains largely a “disinvested area”.
“There is nothing walkable or nothing that provides food of a healthy variety or whole variety in this neighborhood,” he said.
Wright resorted to crowdfunding to fund his grocery business because large investors were not interested in the low profit margins that companies like him generate. “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.”
Since he started his Gofundme campaign in 2017, he has raised around $ 60,000, mostly from Detroit. He also announced that construction of the neighborhood grocery store has already started and hopes to offer various options such as ready meals and other locally made products.