For three decades, the Hill District has been what public health officials call a "food desert." It has been necessary to travel to other communities to shop for food, an inconvenient and often expensive predicament for residents of the neighborhood.
On Thursday, residents of the Hill District welcomed Shop'n Save, the first full-service grocery in that community since Ronald Reagan's first term. The ceremonial ribbon-cutting was appropriately festive as residents, politicians and community leaders turned out to celebrate an event that some had doubted would ever come.
Other supermarket chains, including one that specialized in serving low-income communities, have expressed interest over the years in opening in the Hill District, only to back away. Shop'n Save is one of the most respected chains in the region and a better fit for a community yearning for more than a place to buy just the basics.
The 29,500-square-foot Shop'n Save at the Centre Heldman Plaza has a full deli, bakery and produce department. It employs 125 people, 65 percent of whom hail from the Hill District. The $12.5 million project came together as a partnership between the public and local philanthropies that recognize the long-term advantages of investing in a healthy, thriving Hill District.
Cheryl Hall-Russell, director of the Hill House Association across the street from the supermarket, helped shepherd the grocery from possibility to reality with tenacious lobbying throughout the neighborhood.
Early next year, Shop'n Save will be joined in the plaza by other tenants: Dollar Bank, Crazy Mocha, Nationwide Insurance, Subway and Cricket Communications. These businesses will combine with the refurbished Carnegie Library and the new YMCA in creating a vital corridor that feeds the mind, body and spirit of the people in the community.
Those who worked hard to pull the Shop'n Save deal together are finally in a position to prove what they have maintained -- build a full-service supermarket in the Hill District and customers will come. After that, so will businesses and homeowners.
Now the grateful neighbors have to do their part -- patronize the store to keep it a winner.
First Published October 18, 2013 8:00 PM