Full-Service Grocery Store Set to Open in West Oakland Food Desert

Community Foods Market is set to open in June in West Oakland, which is considered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be a food desert. (Sara Hossaini/KQED)

After years of trying, one neighborhood in West Oakland is about to get its first full-scale grocery store in decades. Community Foods Market has been in the works for nearly a decade, and it is expected to finally open at 3105 San Pablo Ave. in June.

“I've been watching them, and they've been working on it 24/7,” said Vertis Key, who lives across the street from the new store and was one of many who lined up for a job fair hosted by grocer on Saturday. “They got a lot done, and the construction and the ambiance is just great.”

A job seeker interviews with Community Foods Market CEO Brahm Ahmadi, on April 13, 2019.
A job seeker interviews with Community Foods Market CEO Brahm Ahmadi, on April 13, 2019. (Sara Hossaini/KQED)

West Oakland has long been overlooked by supermarket chains. The U.S. Department of Agriculture considers the neighborhood a food desert, with limited access to healthy foods.

CEO Brahm Ahmadi has been organizing around in the area for years as an advocate with People's Grocery, which has tried to provide healthful food options to the community. He says the challenge of opening up shop in a low-income food desert are real — financing, safety, theft — but so is the opportunity.

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“West Oakland collectively spends tens of millions of dollars on groceries, the majority of that leaving this neighborhood because there's nowhere to shop," he said. "And our little small nonprofit projects were never about to serve that need on the scale it was existing."

Ahmadi thinks of his new venture as a grassroots startup. He says he raised $2 million from regular people by offering stock on the store's website, and $13 million more in grants and loans.

"They believe in the project," Ahmadi said of the more than 600 people who helped fund in the new market. "They see the need. They care about the problems that result from not having access to good affordable food and groceries and so put some skin in the game."

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