As a new superstore opens for business in Detroit, the city’s last black-owned grocery store may be forced to say goodbye. The Detroit News reports that James Hooks’ supermarket Metro Foodland may face tough competition from the a Meijer store with a grocery, garden center and gas station that is planned to be built a mile and a half away. In his 27 years of owning a grocery store, he says that the competition from this planned supermarket could be enough to kill his business.
“From what I can tell, most people want it to happen,” Tom Goddeeris, executive director of the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corp. said to The Detroit News. His nonprofit helps to promote the area in Detroit where Metro Foodland is located. He has sat in on two public hearings concerning the Meijer supermarket and the store’s proposal has received relatively few complaints.
“Of course, no one wants to see the Metro Foodland go away. But most residents seemed to realize that without strong retail, more residents will leave the area.”
Despite the negative outlook for Hooks, black-owned businesses have grown in Detroit and nationwide. Between 2002-2007, census data shows that black-owned companies rose 71 percent in the metro Detroit area. But these growing business owners rarely take on starting grocery stores. In fact, black owned grocery stores have been steadily dwindling down since the 1960s civil rights movement.
“There are only a handful left in the United States,” Ted Gregory said to The Detroit News. Gregory is the co-author of “Our Black Year: One Family’s Quest to Buy Black in America’s Racially Divided Economy.”
Gregory relays that “the emphasis became integrating stores where blacks had once been excluded” as opposed to inspiring more black-owned businesses.
Over the course of his 27-year career Hooks attempted to help former African Americans employees open grocery stores, but none of them survived the recession. Now Metro Foodland is the last black owned grocery store in Detroit among the city’s 83 supermarkets and its future looks dim.
Meijer’s $3.3 million tax credits were approved by Michigan Economic Growth Authority and construction will soon begin to develop its 26-acre site.
“I wish someone would give me a lot of money to open a new store,” Hooks said to The Detroit News, “instead of the company that’s already making lots of money.”
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