Posted in

Inside the Detroit People’s Food Co-Op, a new Black-owned community grocery store

The culmination of a more than decade-long journey, the community-owned, community-owned Detroit People’s Food Co-op at 8324 Woodward in the city’s North End will open Wednesday, May 1.

The 15,000-square-foot supermarket is located on the ground floor of the 34,000-square-foot community development complex, the Detroit Food Commons. The member-supported store offers fresh produce, bulk foods, a prepared deli section, non-perishable pantry items and other grocery essentials. The second floor is dedicated to office space and a banquet room, as well as four shared commercial kitchen spaces. The kitchens, led by chef Gabriel Vincent, are available for rent to those with food businesses in need of a commercial commissary kitchen – a resource that has long been unavailable in the city.

Akil Talley, the co-op’s general manager, tells Eater that Detroiters can erase all the crunchy granola vibes (read: expensive) they expected from the store’s offerings. Organizers with the Detroit Black Community Food Sovereignty Network – the group behind the development – ​​underwent a community engagement process to identify the retail needs of the surrounding neighborhood.

“The idea is not to try to enforce what we think is best for people. Our job is to come to the community and meet people where they are,” Talley said.

Cost was a major sticking point among residents, along with concerns about traveling outside city limits to access basic products that are typically difficult to find in Detroit itself. As such, 50 percent of the co-op’s inventory is considered conventional – food that maybe grown and processed using synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or hormones – and 50 percent from organic sources. This formula also ensures more consistent pricing throughout the store, says Chris Dilley, who was hired as a contract manager prior to the co-op’s launch. In addition, the cooperative is a member of the National Co+op Grocers, which provides 161 food cooperatives operating more than 230 stores in 39 states across the country with capacity building support – including enhanced purchasing power – without sacrificing it. the autonomy of an individual cooperative.

The co-op partners with four local growers including Oakland Avenue Farm Urban Farm, D-Town Farm, Green Boots Veteran Community Urban Farm and another farm just a little further outside the immediate area to provide some of the produce inventory.

The cooperative currently carries more than 70 locally produced products. All local food vendors interested in stocking their items in store went through an intake process. All products on site must be prepared in a licensed commercial kitchen and properly labeled. Talley tells Eater that during his time in his current role, he has been inundated with inquiries from people wanting to have their goods sold at the co-op.

The co-op has raised funds in recent years to develop the site, which is estimated to have cost $22 million to complete. According to Axios Detroit, supply chain issues have contributed to construction delays. Last year the co-op received a $100,000 grant from Motor City Match, Crain’s Detroit reports. Cooperative organizers also launched a yearlong membership campaign. As of Wednesday, May 1, more than 2,800 member-owners have signed up for membership, which involves a one-time contribution of $200. However, the store is open to the public and membership is not required to shop.

Eater Detroit had a chance to stop by the co-op in late April as inventory was being added to the shelves. Here, photographer Fatima Syed offers a behind-the-scenes look at what to expect in space.

Customers can find both conventional and organic products in the cooperative. The space is also filled with conveniences like personal care products so Detroiters can avoid a trip to big box stores in the suburbs.

A sign on a white surface that reads North End Deli.

The deli will feature prepared foods and a seating area, and will also serve as a platform for pop-ups.

A man in a red top stands looking to the left with kitchen appliances behind him.

Chef Gabriel Vincent manages Detroit Food Commons’ commercial kitchen space, which is available for lease to food industry companies.

A sign that says Join Our 02549 Owners, You Belong Here.  on a white wall.

The number of cooperative members continues to increase, as evidenced by this ticker, which is displayed in the interior of the store.

A sign with a map of Detroit was mounted on one wall and read What is Local?

Murals and wall art throughout the co-op emphasize the space’s Detroit roots.

Racks of chocolate.

More than 70 local food vendors have products in the co-op’s inventory.

The commercial kitchen areas are equipped with brand new equipment, ready to use.

A bathroom with white subway tile, a mirror, sink, dispenser, black shower curtain, a handle.

In the commercial kitchen there is a toilet with a walk-in shower, where guests can freshen up after work for large events.

A sign that says The Green Room (vegan only).

The Green Room is the special space in the commercial kitchen for vegan food companies.