Gem City Market breaks ground: ‘This is going to help my neighbors’

From left to right: Amar, Kourtney and Na’eem Allen help break ground at the Gem City Market. STAFF/BONNIE MEIBERS

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From left to right: Amar, Kourtney and Na’eem Allen help break ground at the Gem City Market. STAFF/BONNIE MEIBERS

Today it is an empty lot, but a year from now people will be shopping on Salem Avenue where the Gem City Market broke ground on Wednesday evening with a block party.

Lela Klein, the market’s executive director, said since the store will be community owned, it was especially important that the community be closely involved every step of the way— including celebrating.

The market will be a more than $5 million investment in the Old Dayton View neighborhood.

Organizers say the co-op will provide healthy food to the area. The market will also employ 27 people.

The co-op was first announced in 2016 to help address northwest Dayton's food insecurity issues. With more and more grocers moving to the suburbs, food deserts have popped up.

“One year from now, we’ll be shopping,” said Corinne Sanders, a co-op member. “I knew I wanted to be involved after the first community meeting I attended. There is so much camaraderie. This is going to help my neighbors. This is going to help people with no transportation. This is not something that’s far off in the distance any more, the store is actually coming.”

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The co-op has sold 2,200 memberships so far. Premier Health donated money to allow hundreds of people to buy half-price memberships.

Construction and demolition will begin in the next three weeks, Klein said. And if all goes as planned, the market will have a ribbon cutting in September 2020.

There were two groundbreaking ceremonies on Wednesday.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, Montgomery County Commissioner Judy Dodge, former U.S. Ambassador Tony Hall and other elected officials took part in the first ceremony at 4 p.m. in the 300 and 400 block of Salem Avenue. Hall said this area of northwest Dayton is one of the largest food deserts in Ohio.

“I’m proud to work in a city that is tackling these tough issues,” Whaley said. “We’re not waiting on others to do it, Dayton is doing it themselves. Dayton takes care of Dayton.”

A groundbreaking ceremony for supporters of the market and the general public was at 6 p.m.

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Community members were encouraged to bring their own shovels for a giant group photo of the community breaking ground. Many strolled in the open space with a shovel of their own, from a yellow plastic kid’s shovel to real garden tools.

“I just love the idea of everyone coming together to break the ground, because everyone has had a part in this coming together,” Klein said.

The groundbreakings come as organizers announced that the market’s capital campaign goals have been met. The group has raised more than $4 million in grants and pledges.

“It just feels like people saw the need and really stepped up,” Klein said.

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The co-op store will offer affordable, specialty, local and organic products as well as fresh produce and meats and “kitchen staples,” organizers have said. It will also include meeting rooms, a teaching kitchen and community outdoor space.

Grandview Hospital is donating $260,000 toward building the teaching kitchen.

The event also included free barbecue, a bounce house, DJ, health screenings and a fitness demonstration from affiliated fitness co-op, Gem Life.

Gem Life held demonstrations throughout the event for anyone to join.

Later in the night there were also hula-hoopers, a live performance from the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company and Aurora Fire, a Yellow-Springs based fire dance team.

“We are celebrating the community, food and health,” Klein said.

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