Gem City Market gives supporters a sneak peek

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) speaks with Lela Klein during a tour of the Gem City Market on Friday. Klein is on the market's board. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) speaks with Lela Klein during a tour of the Gem City Market on Friday. Klein is on the market's board. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The long-awaited grand opening of the Gem City Market takes place on Wednesday, and a couple of U.S. lawmakers this week got a sneak peek of the new facility, which was partly funded with federal dollars.

The worker- and member-owned cooperative grocery store received a grant worth nearly $1 million from Greater Dayton Premier Management.

The money was leftover HOPE VI funds, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who toured the market on Friday, advocated for putting the HUD funding toward the project, which he described as uniquely important.

“I know there are things like this, but not of this consequence and magnitude,” he said.

Sen. Sherrod Brown and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley tour the Gem City Market on Friday. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
Sen. Sherrod Brown and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley tour the Gem City Market on Friday. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The market also benefitted from New Market Tax Credits to the tune of about $1.5 million, supporters say. The credits provide incentives for investors to put money into projects in low-income communities.

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton), who visited the grocery store on Monday, said he supported bipartisan New Market Tax Credit legislation that helped make that financing possible.

“This community-owned market will not only expand critical food access, it will create jobs and help revitalize West Dayton,” Turner said.

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner toured the Gem City Market, along with market board President Amaha Sellassie. CONTRIBUTED
On Monday, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner toured the Gem City Market, along with market board President Amaha Sellassie. CONTRIBUTED

The Gem City Market has been hosting tours recently, ahead of its official opening at noon on Wednesday.

Many people spent countless hours working to the make project a reality, and the market relied on funding from a wide variety of sources.

The overall investment in the project is about $7 million, and notably, the market received about $500,000 from small investment, market supporters said.

“I feel like we’re showing off our 15,000-square-foot baby,” Lela Klein, a member of the Gem City Market board, said on Friday, during Brown’s tour.

The store is owned by its 25 employees and its more than 4,000 members, Klein said.

About 22,000 people in that part of the city, including 5,300 children, have not had access to full-service grocery store in more than a decade, Klein said.

“And on Wednesday, when we open our doors, that will change,” she said. “The federal investment we have gotten has made that possible.”

She added, “Federal dollars took us over the finish line and allowed us to make this project a reality.”

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said she’s pleased that groceries will be available in a food desert, but she also looks forward to the market being used by the community, for classes, programming and other activities.