South Side Building May Open as Food Market – and More

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Councilwoman Anita Davis remembers when the vacant building at 2649 Glenwood Ave. was the site of her school growing up. Later it was home of a much-needed grocery store.

Davis, 6th Ward, still lives nearby and is excited about the future of the building, which still has grocery aisle signs hanging while no aisles remain.

She and others gathered Thursday inside the building and held a sign reading “Future Home of the Community Marketplace.”

Davis said there is homework to do, but the need in the community is immediate. She envisions it as a mini-market concept, with groceries available, but also possibly a way to address other needs of the community.

“We can show that this here is a great place for shopping. Then other food markets will see that and know Youngstown can sustain another grocery store, a full-service grocery store,” Davis said.

Rose Carter, executive director of Action, said for the past several years the organization has sought to put a brick-and-mortar grocery back into the city. Along with Flying High and Grow Urban Farm, they have been able to provide fresh produce through the mobile market.

“It’s overwhelming,” Carter said, adding they are doing 32 stops per month or more at various locations, and people have needs for food between mobile market visits. 

“So if we have a centrally located facility or site where the WRTA bus can come down … the truck wouldn’t have to run back and get groceries when we run out. We would be able to do this with the community.”

Carter sees the location as an opportunity to provide a place where people can come with more scheduled opportunities at an indoor location and obtain food.

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown does not seem as certain that a food market is enough for the space. He has a longer list of everything he would like to see housed within the space of the former Bottom Dollar Food store.

“I know everyone says make it a grocery store again,” Brown said. “I think what we’re really looking at, we’ve had several meetings, and what we’re looking at is, what’s the needs of the community? What’s the needs of this area?”

Brown said he can see it as some type of grocery store or market, but he also is concerned that pharmacies are closing on the South Side, and he recently visited a clinic in Euclid that helped mothers take steps to reduce infant mortality. He would like to see the space used to address several needs.

“All the social service needs that we find in our community could be spaced and housed here in parts of the building,” said Brown, adding that it could be cut up into spaces for several agencies and organizations. “At the end of the day, we want to make sure that this location is a location that fits the needs, that feeds the needs and that satisfies the needs of the people who live in this community.

“We want to make sure we plan with them and not for them,” said Brown, who wants to study the idea further.

The building at 2649 Glenwood Ave. was previously occupied by a Bottom Dollar Food store.

Both Davis and Councilman Julius Oliver, 1st Ward, said they are willing to put money earmarked for their wards toward turning the vacant space into something useful for the community, and Davis challenged Brown to put city dollars toward the project as well.

Oliver said the building is close enough to his ward that it will greatly benefit everyone there.

“It’s in the 6th, but it borders the 5th Ward, the 1st Ward and the 7th Ward, so this could be a facility for groceries and other services that service the entire South Side,” Oliver said. 

He said, in his opinion, there is the most need on the South Side because it is an area where the most children live in the city, and there’s a large need to reduce insecurities and, thereby, reduce violence.

“Our job is not only to take care of our ward, but to look out for needs of the entire city and all the taxpayers, so that’s why I’m willing to put money into this, because it borders my ward and it makes sense.”

Sheila Triplett, executive director of Mahoning Youngstown Community Action Partnership, said she could also see the building as a place where a satellite office of MYCAP could join other services there, and those from the neighborhood could get to them easier.

“I’m so looking forward to this project and what it can mean,” Triplett said.

The 18,000-square-foot location was reclaimed by the city in June 2023, purchased back for $150,000, the same amount Ohio North East Health Systems Inc., doing business as One Health Ohio, purchased it for in March 2018. The plan was for the creation of a health clinic, but that never came to fruition.

In 2012 the building housed a Bottom Dollar, until it was closed about the time it was purchased by ALDI. That chain purchased the three Youngstown Bottom Dollar stores in 2014.

Living within a golf cart ride of the former store, Davis said she rides to the building about once a week, and she was determined that something had to be done with it.

“This summer I said we have to push this thing through, and here we are, ready to put this building back to full community use,” Davis said.

She said the WRTA bus would deliver people right to the front door by pulling into the parking lot, and she would like to see that happening as soon as this time next year, possibly with a holiday market.

“We just have to come together,” Davis said, noting it will take cooperation and city money to make the project happen. Although the building is structurally sound and functional with working heat and water, it will still require some work.

“I can just visualize this,” Carter said.

Pictured at top: From left are Mark Hrabe, secretary of the Action board; Carl Davis, Youngstown police chief; Mayor Jameal Tito Brown; Rev. Jeff Stanford, organizer with Action; Ron Fasano, incoming vice president of Action; Councilwoman Anita Davis, 6th Ward; Rev. Richard Kidd, president of Action; Rose Carter, executive director of Action; Erica Avery, current vice president of Action.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.