A feeling of redemption is in the air in Cleveland’s Buckeye neighborhood. More than 16 months after Giant Eagle closed its doors and left residents without an immediate source of fresh produce and food, a new store has opened shop in the building located in Buckeye Plaza.
The opening of Simon’s Supermarket on Buckeye Road was a long time in the making and the culmination of months and months of meetings and discussions. An effort that began in the very community left devastated by the departure of Giant Eagle.
"I wanted to make sure it was a supermarket in our neighborhood that had good food, that was giving good service to our community and to hopefully give employment to the residents here,” said Ward 6 community representative Diane Pride-Mays.
Pride-Mays, Lorrie Yuill and Deborah Gray of Ward 4 attended countless meetings with elected officials and development representatives month after month at the Harvey Rice library relaying community concerns and possible solutions.
"The community came together and pressed the issue very hard and we stood strong," said Gray.
Fahmeed Afzal and Simon’s management group attended many of those community meetings and decided to take a chance on opening a grocery store in the Buckeye area when others would not.
The local food chain addressed specific community requests like installing a hot food section, carrying toys and infant needs and hiring local employees. In fact, Afzal says more than eighty percent of his workforce comes from the local community. The entire project was made possible with city and Cuyahoga County funds, grants and specialized loans.
"A business cannot be successful without the relationship with the community, community leaders,” said Afzal. “It's a collaboration. It cannot be just an isolation successful without interacting with the customers."
That interaction began with a need and ended with an organized effort to reclaim a community's worth.
"Now we are being showcased to show we have strength in numbers and everybody is willing to work together you know to make this ward successful," added Gray.
Simon’s plans to eventually introduce delivery service at its Buckeye Plaza location. The store’s official grand opening will be Oct. 6.
They have also started an online petition to improve access to high-quality supermarkets across the county. You can view and sign the petition here.