Inside Detroit's last black-owned grocery store
That customer decided something needed to be done. She made phone calls, spread the word and organized a big tailgate party on a spring afternoon in Metro Foodland's parking lot on Grand River near Fenkell. Not just to draw more customers, but also to celebrate the store's 27 years in the community, a word that in Detroit refers to more than geography.
Meat smoked on the barbecue grills. A wine tasting took place. The Cass Tech marching band played loud on the blacktop lot. African-themed products were sold from fold-out tables. There were speeches by local pastors and politicians, and there was a voter registration drive.
Though many small businesses in the city are struggling right now, hundreds of supporters came out for this one. Because this isn't just any grocery store. It's the last black-owned supermarket in Detroit.
Local media stopped by. Jet magazine called. How is it possible, they all wanted to know, that in a city whose population is mostly black, there is just one black-owned supermarket?
The store's founder wonders that himself. "Eighty-five percent of the people living in the city are African-American — I'm being conservative — and one store? It doesn't make sense to me," says James Hooks, Metro Foodland's 58-year-old owner. "You have Koreans providing us with hair care and beauty supplies, and you have cleaners that are run by Asians, and Chaldeans are providing groceries, and what's left? Hair salons and nail shops. And that's all we own?"
To some, a store owner's race might seem like it should be an irrelevant factor, but in a city where there are stores that still have decades-old "Black Owned and Proud to Serve You" signs in their windows, race matters.
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