New Grocery Store Poised to Open in Food Desert

Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 7:41 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - A new grocery store could open on East Pontiac Street next year in an area considered to be a food desert at a location that is the former Vincent Village Outlet Store.

The land was donated and it means that this grocery store would be unlike others in the city.

“It would in close proximity to everyone,” Roger Whitaker said. “They wouldn’t have to go way out somewhere.”

Whitaker lives right behind the building that could become home to a new grocery store. He’s lived there for three years and says there’s no question that more grocery stores are needed on Fort Wayne’s southeast side.

“Sometimes you don’t have enough gas to go that far to the grocery store that to me is a distance out,” Whitaker said.

Monday, the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission approved a property donation that would allow the grocery store to open. According to the USDA, this part of the city is a food desert, which means neighbors likely face challenges buying fresh food close to where they live.

Officials with the city and Redevelopment Commission tell me it would provide healthy food options.

“You get to the grocery store and then if what you want is not at the grocery store, you have to go to another grocery store,” Barber shop owner Richard Bevelle said. “I’m literally one step away, it’ll be easy leaving work, going to the grocery store, then home.”

Bevelle says he hopes this ultimate is a resource for people living and working nearby. He’s hopeful this will also help his business too.

Leaders say Monday’s meeting is just the beginning of this process. They say they still need to find an operator, who would be interested in taking over this building.

“I hope that what comes out of this is we get a new grocery store that can provide more fruits and vegetables to our community and just good products to our people,” Whitaker said.

What makes this project unique is that the city is leading development of this grocery along with a community partner that has yet to be publicly named. The mayor’s office is drawing inspiration from a community grocery store in Toledo. In that model, a hospital is the partner in the project - providing nutritious foods at more affordable prices.

The store also offers job training and employment opportunities for neighbors. This is something Mayor Henry has told us previously would be a part of this project. We’re working to learn if Fort Wayne healthcare companies are involved in this project.