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April 2016 - Business Spotlight on AG Your Voice Matters Taskforce All About The Businesses!

Business Task Force Collaborates to Reclaim our Local Corner Stores

Since October 2016, when the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation kicked of the Your Voice Matters Quality of life Planning process, I (Norma Sanders) along with the consultant for SSA #32 (Cheryl Johnson), where selected as neighborhood subject matter advisors to the Business and Economic Development Task Forces, because of our work promoting and supporting local businesses. Along with the business thought leaders and facilitator, we worked with the team to create a vision, mission and began the development of agreed upon projects to improve the business and economic development quality of life in our communities.

A few very personal stories resonated and led to a pilot business project that is worth noting. One task force member shared a conversation with a local corner store truck driver, whose family is working to procure several corner stores, on the south and west sides of Chicago.  He asked why aren't we (local African American residents)? Another restaurant business owner shared his experience of his first job; working in a local African American owned grocery store as a teenager. He shared how for him it was more than a job, it was the beginning of his career in the food industry. His story led the task force to think seriously about how the “local corner store,” in the teams opinion had deteriorated, as it was taken over by owners, who did not care about the community or the quality of food and other items sourced in our local corner store.

It was discussed in detail, why for many reasons, in our communities, the local corner store was and still is a needed staple. It was agreed some corner-store owners were “good” and even hired from the community. Yet, in spite of these good reasons, no one felt overall these stores had our best interest in mind, even with the local hiring.

As result, a recommendation to think outside the box, select a site, and develop a local corner store, that is owned and operated by vested members of the Task Force (representation of the community), as a pilot, became listed as a local early action project.

One business owner didn’t want to wait and he stepped up to secure a location and to help get a pilot started. The site he selected is in Englewood on 69th Street. Still within the neighborhood business development center service area.

This ultimately will be an effort to collaborate with local investors, community organizations and residents to begin a model to take back this corner store industry, for the people who ultimately live in the community. The overall goal is to fulfill the community strategy, of building its own local businesses and positively impact development, of the area where we live, work and shop.

We have since learned that other southwest communities are working strategically to improve local corner stores and look forward to learning more about their efforts and any future cross-collaboration of project efforts.

GAGDC Business Development Task Force Quality of Life Planning

Photos: Norma Sanders