AT LAST—Linda Imani Barett celebrates finally being able to buy groceries in her neighborhood. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
by Christian Morrow
Courier Staff Writer
Apparently, waiting 30 years and one day for a new grocery store is too long for some Hill District residents. The day before its scheduled opening, Heldman Plaza SHOP ‘n SAVE operator Jeff Ross went to check on the store and found “shoppers” roaming the aisles.
“We actually had to politely turn people away who were in the store already,” said Ross.
When the store officially opened Oct. 18 at 7 a.m., they and others crowded back in, and Hill residents were almost universally impressed.
Eugene McCarthy said the store is beautiful and he loves it. Shaffe Scott echoed that statement adding that it’s a pleasure not to have to leave the community to go shopping.
“It’s well needed and it’s been a long time since we needed it and I’m happy it’s here finally,” she said. “If this wasn’t here I would be going to the bottom dollar in the North Hills and I love it but now I’m going to love SHOP ‘n SAVE.”
Delores Mosely thanked God for the store.
“It took a long time coming and I hope we can keep it, because God knows we need this,” she said. “I’m tired of getting jitneys and getting rides to way out where they don’t even want us at. Thank God we have a store on the Hill. SHOP ‘n SAVE got it back. God was with us.”
The new store, which boasts reproductions of some of Charles “Teenie” Harris’ iconic photos of the Hill inside, and two massive murals by artist Leslie Ansley in the entranceway, features 23,126 square feet of retail space. The exposed ceiling over the shopping floor has 12 skylights and eight solar tubes, bringing an impressive amount of natural light into the building.
Though they are not yet completed the building will also house five additional retail spaces with an average size of 6,900 square feet.
But the store isn’t just for shoppers, it’s also for the employees. True to his word, 95 percent of the employees Ross has hired are Black and 86 percent are from the Hill District zip code area.
One of them, produce assistant LaQuita Young, lives just a block away.
“I live right behind the store. If it wasn’t here, I’d still; be a stay-at-home-mom looking for work,” she said. “Now I’m here from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day. I love it.”
Portia Hawthorne, who works in the hot foods sections, said being able to work and shop so close to home is fantastic.
“It’s right down the street, it’s convenient, and it’s beautiful in here,” she said. “They made it a big comeback by making a store after 30 years. So, I’m glad there is a store here.”
Still, you can’t please everyone entirely, and Needra Adams, a Hill resident who uses a motorized wheelchair, made sure she buttonholed Ross about some of his product choices.
“I’ve ridden all through your store in my ‘Silver Cloud’ and you need to carry more of the products I used if you want my little bit of money,” she said. “And get rid of that Hazelnut ice cream. I don’t eat that, nobody does.”
Ross smiled, nodded politely and said he’d look into it, and reminded her that the store is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
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