The city of Dallas says it is not giving up on bringing a grocery store to a southern Dallas food desert.
For months the city's offer of $3 million in funding was up for grabs. Last week the deadline passed with no takers. It's left residents and city leaders wondering what it is going to take to get a grocery store.
"Often times, we heard that it was not in their plans, that their property margins were really thin. So they're looking how can they best recoup their finances and how quickly can they do that," said Dallas City Councilman Erik Wilson.
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Two months ago a Save-A-Lot grocery store opened in Wilson's city council district. Before that, residents had to choose between shopping at a convenience store or driving several miles to find a grocery store.
The city offered the owner of the Save-A-Lot $2.8 million in funding. Wilson said the city is actively looking for another person or grocery store chain willing to take a chance on southern Dallas. He said low income households, density and public safety concerns – real or imagined – should not deprive southern Dallas residents of healthy food options.
"Everyone needs to eat. Someone has to take a chance. We're willing to work with those individuals to take that chance so we can provide a better quality of life," Wilson said.
Standing inside the family-owned grocery store that bears his grandmother's name, Ryan Munchrath recalls the risk his family took nearly 30 years ago when they opened Ann's Health Food Center and Market in a low income neighborhood in Oak Cliff surrounded by fast-food chains.
"'Why would you put a health store in an area that doesn't care about their health?' That's what the banks told my grandmother," Munchrath said.
The investment the Munchrath family made in the surrounding community has paid off. Like the Save-A-Lot the shelves are stocked with a variety of foods, fresh fruits and vegetables. There is a steady stream of customers daily.
Munchrath said $3 million in funding may not be much to the larger grocers, but for a smaller grocer it can go a long way.
"For the big chains it's nothing. For somebody like us that's another store," he said. "You have to be willing to take some years in the red, too. It's not always going to be perfect."
Munchrath said his family was able to get past the perception that quality grocery stores cannot survive in southern Dallas when their first customer walked in the door. Like Munchrath, Wilson hopes someone else can do the same and finally turn a southern Dallas food dessert into an oasis of fresh food.
"The money is still there, the offer still stands," Wilson said. "We may repackage it a different way, but we're still going to fight everyday for the elimination of food deserts in southern Dallas."