CINCINNATI — A new cooperative grocery store hopes to make healthy food more accessible in Walnut Hills. The group behind it is launching a fundraising campaign on Tuesday, March 1 to open a brick-and-mortar shop at the site of the old Kroger store on East McMillan Street.
The store closed in 2017, leaving residents without a nearby grocery. At the time, a Kroger spokesperson attributed the closure to significant lost profits.
Part of the neighborhood is considered a “food desert,” meaning many people have limited access to affordable, healthy food.
“A lot of our residents are taking one or two buses to the next nearest grocery store,” said Mona Jenkins, who co-founded Queen Mother’s Market Cooperative. “It’s been very difficult for many folks to access food.”
Jenkins said Queen Mother’s Market Cooperative will be a full-service grocery store focused on affordable, healthy food. She envisions the brick-and-mortar shop will include a community room, cooking lessons on healthy eating and cafes.
As a cooperative, or co-op, the market will be owned by the Walnut Hills community and its employees. It’s one of several co-ops supported by local nonprofit Co-Op Cincy, which works to expand worker-owned businesses in the Greater Cincinnati area.
“As a result, you are able to vote on things that happen,” Jenkins said. “Your voice is within any decision.”
The Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation is on board as a partner of the project.
“In order to have a successful, thriving Walnut Hills business district and attract people to move to the neighborhood, you have to have a grocery store,” said Gary Dangel, Food Access Coordinator for the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation.
Jenkins said the goal of the project is to move the market into a physical space at the site of the old Kroger. The lot is currently being developed by The Model Group, in partnership with The Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation for a mixed-use project.
Queen Mother’s Market Cooperative is launching a fundraising campaign Tuesday to secure funding for the physical location and equipment. The group is hoping to raise $4 million and open a storefront by fall 2024.
“For a number of years, we have been somewhat disregarded,” Jenkins said. “Some of the investment has not come to this neighborhood. And we don’t have to wait on that to happen. We can take it upon ourselves.”
Jenkins said the project will also create opportunities for local farmers and suppliers. Dangel said focusing on locally-grown food will improve residents’ nutrition too.
“The food that people will have access to will have potentially been harvested within the hour and grown by people they know, right there in their neighborhood,” he said.
Queen Mother’s Market Cooperative is hosting a launch party Tuesday at Esoteric Brewing Company to unveil more details about the project and launch the campaign. It starts at 6 p.m.