Grocery Store Returns to Dallas Food Desert

Stores were miles away before the reopening of Southern Dallas grocery

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As some parts of North Texas clamor for San Antonio grocer H-E-B to come to their neighborhood, a Southern Dallas neighborhood celebrated the reopening Tuesday of a small food store.

The area along Simpson Stuart Road near Bonnie View Road was a food desert, with the closest grocery store miles away, before what’s now called “Food Basket” had a soft opening in January.

Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony was led by neighborhood Dallas City Council Member Tennell Atkins, who has fought to keep a store open in that neighborhood for years.

“You do not appreciate a grocery store until you find out you do not have a grocery store in the community,” Atkins said.

The City of Dallas invested $2.8 million in the project to build and open a grocery store at the site, but the previous operator failed and the store was closed for nearly two years.

“I had so far to go to shop, 5 miles, that’s a long way. You have a lot of people out here that don’t have cars. There’s a lot of seniors, like me,” customer Faye Gafford said.

Customers who wanted to see the store thrive said there were many reasons for the failure.

“It doesn’t have the best reputation around here, ok,” said customer Jack Maxwell.

The store is surrounded by older apartments with potential customers but also a large new complex down the street and other new development that could add business for the new store operator.

“We need the community support because we want to make this store successful and we want to stay here,” Bill Davidson, Food Basket General Manager, said.

The new operator sought no additional city money and agreed to complete the previous deal for city investment.

“We did not give them anything. They took over the liability,” Atkins said. “They came here to stay. But I want to get it clear. It’s up to you to make sure they can stay. It’s up to you to shop here.”

The councilman asked police and residents to help the store survive.

“We’re going to make sure this neighborhood is clean and we make sure this neighborhood is safe. And when your neighbor drops paper on the street, you pick it up or tell them to pick it up, because we want to make sure it’s a clean, prosperous neighborhood,” Atkins said.

As the previous store operation wound down in the past, customers complained it did not have a full selection of groceries and fresh meat that was on display Tuesday.

Resident Marsha Jackson, who tangled with the City of Dallas over the notorious shingle mountain behind her home nearby, said she went to the suburbs to shop for groceries when this store was unavailable.

“And I was wondering why we need to send our money to other cities and other suburbs when we can use it right here,” Jackson said.

Since the store reopened Jackson said she has been pleased to buy her groceries there.  

“They’re cleaning it, and the food freshness and the vegetables, you’ll have my business. You’ll continue to have my business,” Jackson said.

Maxwell said he hopes it continues.

“Come back in a month and we’ll check it out again. How about that? See if it works. I hope, absolutely,” he said.

Davidson, a former Minyard’s Grocery executive, said Food Basket is the 5th store in the small chain he is running now. The other four are Cash Saver stores, including one on Ledbetter Drive at Lancaster Road, the next closest grocery store to the Simpson Stuart location.

Davidson said he is impressed with the support he hears from Food Basket customers.

“We’re really excited about the opportunity. We’re proud of the store. We’re proud of the presentation,” he said.

Atkins said Food Basket must stay open 5 years and 9 months or it will be required to repay the city’s original $2.8 million investment.

HEB does own land in southern Dallas County but the chain has announced no plans to open stores at those locations.

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