East End Neighborhood Development Corp. has purchased a shuttered convenience store on Xenia Avenue. The group plans to turn it into a community market. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
Photo: HANDOUT
Photo: HANDOUT

Xenia Avenue could get community market

East End Neighborhood Development Corp. has acquired a shuttered retail store on Xenia Avenue that it hopes to transform into a community market to fill gaping holes in the area’s access to nutritious foods.

The nonprofit group recently closed on 405 Xenia Ave., which is a 3,000-square-foot building that has been a string of convenience stores, most recently Convenient Food Mart.

Neighbors and community leaders say the store was a crime magnet, but think it can become a community asset that makes it easier for residents to eat healthy.

“We’ll be able to meet some needs in the community,” said Jan Lepore-Jentleson, executive director of WestCare Ohio and East End Community Services.

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East End Neighborhood Development Corp. has purchased the Xenia Avenue building for $60,257. The building is just down the street from East End Community Services headquarters, located at 624 Xenia Ave.

East End Neighborhood Corp. raised about $15,000 to help purchase the property, which it envisions as a food hub in an area that sorely lacks close access to grocery stores and restaurants. The nonprofit used its reserves to cover the rest of the acquisition costs.

The proposed community market will have an emphasis on healthy food including produce from local growers, affordable staples and prepared and grab-and-go foods, Lepore-Jentleson said.

The community market concept was developed using feedback from community members about what they would like to see in the space, which was originally built as a UDF.

The store could require between $140,000 to $250,000 in renovations to bring it up to code, but the hope is volunteers will do some of the work to fix up the building to reduce repair bills, Lepore-Jentleson said.

“The plan for the summer is to at least spruce up the outside,” she said.

East End plans to pursue grant funding to help pay to transform the building into a market, officials said. The goal is to open the market in spring 2020, but that is a “heavy lift,” Lepore-Jentleson said.

East End was provided a 47-page report about market trends from Flyer Consulting, an organization run by business students at the University of Dayton.

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East End expects to use information from the report to craft a business plan for its new property.

The report looked at the financial feasibility of food-related business for the area and included analysis of the market area and operational and management needs.

People in the area spend around $95,000 each week on groceries and food, and most food that is purchased is eaten at home, said Lepore-Jentleson.

A store could capture $17,000 per week based on that location since Historic Inner East and Twin Towers don’t have many grocery options, Lepore-Jentleson said.

“I found it interesting that our little market could capture 18 percent of market share,” she said.

The Flyer Consulting report recommended a produce department, a deli department and a grocery department with canned foods, dry goods and staples, said Stephen Mackell, farm manager with Mission of Mary.

“To the extent that we can in a small space maximize the number of offerings we have in the store so we almost have a one-stop shop experience,” he said.

The deli could have prepared foods, seasonal items and the market could attract customers from outside the neighborhood with specialty items, Mackell said.

Some challenges for the store include lower traffic volumes on Xenia Avenue, parking and safety.

“There’s security issues — safety issues — because it’s in a neighborhood that has a reputation for being tough,” Lepore-Jentleson said.

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