Raphael Wright said healthy food options have long been limited in Detroit’s Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood. His store, Neighborhood Grocery, aims to alleviate the issue.
“I started the journey of opening up a grocery store in Detroit because I wanted to rebuild the neighborhood I came from,” Wright said in an interview with the Michigan Chronicle. “You have to start with controlling, distributing, and growing the food that’s in the community and the people who are a part of that have to be from the community as well.”
In addition to making healthy food more accessible, Wright said his store will bring more job opportunities. The Detroit entrepreneur also believes that his store will attract businesses, schools and other resources to the neighborhood. Wright, who has received several awards through the years for leading healthy food campaigns, opened Neighborhood Grocery in July.
“It’s a combination of a convenience store, a mom-and-pop store, and full-service market,” Wright told Hour Detroit, adding that the store has “everything that you need.”
Wright, who was diagnosed with diabetes as a teen, committed to changing his diet to improve his health. However, he had difficulty finding quality food in his neighborhood; he would have to drive 30 minutes to the suburbs.
The 34-year-old eventually decided to bring change to his community. Earlier this year, Wright received an $85,000 grant from a program provided by the Detroit Economic Growth Corp; the grant is offered to developing businesses.
Sean Gray, who serves as Detroit Economic Growth Corp’s vice president of small business services, now praises Wright for the work he’s doing.
“We are thrilled to see his vision come to life in the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood,” Gray told Hour Detroit. “His commitment to this project and his community stands as an example of the tenacity that defines Detroit’s entrepreneurial spirit. Neighborhood Grocery will be a game changer for the community by providing access to fresh and healthy food options previously out of reach for some residents.”
The store has also attracted over 400 investors, most of them being from Detroit. Some of the investors have provided as much as $10,000. Wright has also bought a half-acre plot of land near the store. The food Wright produces will be sold at the store and distributed around the community.
Although there are many hurdles as a Black businessman, Wright said he will keep on pushing forward no matter what.
“I’m Black — I’m aware of racism, discrimination, all of that stuff, but at some point, that is going to become an excuse if you don’t start doing your own type of work,” he said. “That’s what this store is a testament of for me. I just went out and did the work [and] sighted an issue in the community. There are not enough healthy food stores or stores that can really supply a well-balanced diet for families in the city of Detroit, and I went and built it from the ground up.”