A quarter-century after Sobeys left Gottingen Street, a community group aims to open a grocery store in the north end. by Jordan Whitehouse
Good news, north enders: it looks like you might finally be getting a grocery store in your neighbourhood that offers healthy and affordable food. And anyone reading this can help make it happen.
Community Carrot Co-op is the group behind the for-profit store, and they're in the running to win a $115,000 grant through the Aviva Insurance Community Fund. The idea made it through three rounds of online voting, and now that it's in the semi-finals, the group's organizers are hoping the public can vote it into the top 10 finalists, where a jury will pick the winner.
One of the co-op's organizers is Norman Greenberg, a retired psychologist who came up with the idea about three years ago after helping to establish a small grocery outlet for tenants in a Gottingen Street building while working with Connections Clubhouse Halifax.
"It became apparent that a grocery store wasn't just a need inside that building," he says. "It was a need in the whole neighbourhood. I thought we needed a store that people can walk to because a lot of people don't have cars, a lot of people don't have that much money—some kind of place where people can go for fresh food."
It's been a need for over 25 years, in fact, which was when Sobeys left the Gottingen area. While small stores that sell groceries and fresh food in the north end do exist, they don't all exactly cater to the majority living in the neighbourhood, 60 percent of whom are classified as low-income earners, according to Community Carrot Co-op.
Comparing the food prices between some of those smaller stores and Superstore or Sobeys, it's not hard to understand why many north enders are travelling outside their neighbourhood for groceries. In my survey of prices at various stores last week, some common items—bread, bananas, tomatoes—were 30 to 100 percent more expensive in the neighbourhood than they were at the larger outlets.
The co-op hopes to draw those shoppers back to the north end with healthy and competitively priced food. If it wins the $115,000, it'll will use the money to open a temporary store by March that could feature separate meat, fish and fruit and vegetable vendors. The co-op itself would be the grocery vendor. Right now, it's looking at renting a space at 2169 Gottingen, where The Hub plans to move in the new year.
Greenberg and his group also believe that running the grocery store as a cooperative, in particular, is a good thing for the community. "We decided to make it a co-op because we wanted to involve the community in not only the setting up of the store, but with the idea that they have a say in what goes on," he says.
Customers won't have to be members to shop there, but if they pay a small membership fee, they'll get perks, like being invited to meetings where they can help decide on improvements to the store.
What happens if Community Carrot Co-op doesn't secure funds through the Aviva competition? Well, it'll have to look elsewhere. The group's been investigating grant opportunities with organizations like the Rotary Club of Halifax and IWK Health Centre.
Although Greenberg knows it's a possibility he won't win, he's not letting that cloud the group's focus. "If you're interested in lowering our health costs and increasing the community's wellness, get out and vote for us," he says. "Get out and help us do this."
Semi-final voting runs from December 3 to December 12. Visit avivacommunityfund.org/ideas/acf14945 to vote for Community Carrot Co-op.