What does it take to get a grocery store in the Black community?
Efforts have been made to try to get a grocery store in the Hill District since the Phoenix Hill Mall went under in the ’70s or ’80s.
I could understand the problem if the community had gone downhill but the Hill has grown tremendously since those days. There’s new moderate to middle income housing development throughout the Hill and because of it the income level has skyrocketed upward. Plus the elimination of the public housing projects also helped. So you have the people, the income, and the desire. So what’s holding it up?
At last count there was supposed to be a SHOP ‘n SAVE completed this year, but because of various management changes everything has come to a halt because of the lack of money.
Why is it when it comes to major businesses in the Black community it’s always a lack of money?
We have a professional football team in Pittsburgh, loaded with Black millionaires, and two other major league teams loaded with White millionaires. If Blacks can invest in White businesses why can’t Whites invest in Black businesses?
The Steelers are loaded with Black millionaires with the Pirates having a few, and even the Penguins are loaded with White millionaires. Why haven’t any of them stepped up to invest in a business that is sure to be successful, especially the Black players? All it would take would be two or three of them. Talking about giving back to the community, this would be an ideal way of creating a business that employed people, that trained people for employment, that feed people, and sets an example to all young people that positives can happen in the Black community, and that Black athletes do care about more than fancy cars, jewelry, homes and women.
This is far more important than the various sporting camps many of them have, and the investments in clubs, restaurants, sporting teams and most of their other investments.
A grocery store would be the anchor for several other businesses to locate in the Hill bringing jobs and prestige to the community. This would not only be an example to the entire city but the country, showing that Blacks can support major businesses just like other communities.
There’s no way you can tell me that there are so many more people out in Robinson township that they can build that elaborate Giant Eagle out there, but we can’t get a regular store in the Hill.
Have the people running this venture even tried to get the people with money to invest. Other than trying to get the government to do it all, go after private investors, both Black and White.
As far as stores not surviving in Black communities go, I shop at the Giant Eagle and Kuhn’s on the North Side, and every time I go in I wonder what are they giving away because there’s so many people packed in these stores. So the lack of customers is not the problem. Plus all you Blacks traveling way out to Robinson to shop, don’t have an excuse not to shop in the Hill.
Theft, both external and internal was a major problem with the failure of the Phoenix Hill grocery, but stores are surviving in major urban areas like the North Side, South Side and East Hills, so why wouldn’t one be successful in the Hill?
Yes government must be involved as they are in the suburbs when they give tax breaks, and free land to build on, along with other perks. But on the whole we need to start helping ourselves, by seeking out the folks with the money, Black and White, to invest in the legitimate businesses in the Black community.
We spend our money just like Whites. We eat just like Whites. Yet we see all the development happening in the suburbs, the plazas, strips, and malls, yet we can’t get one major grocery store in the most populated Black community in the city. We need to change our tactics. Find investors.
(Ulish Carter is managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.)