After a decade long struggle the ShopRite finally opens its doors in the Gwynn Oaks neighborhood on July 31, 2014. The grocery store is located at 4601 Liberty Heights Avenue in the Howard Park community of Baltimore, MD.
Mayor of Baltimore City Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Howard Park deserved a quality supermarket. In a radio interview, she credited the cooperation between the community, faith leaders and members of her administration for making the new grocery store possible.
The area had been a food desert since 1999 when Super Pride closed its doors, but now the 67,000 square foot supermarket will offer a huge variety of groceries and fresh produce, meat, seafood, healthy fast food, a fresh bake shop, natural, organic and gluten-free products and a full-service pharmacy. The pharmacy was what caused the delay in opening of the store as there was a restrictive covenant in zoning laws that prohibited the inclusion of a pharmacy.
A huge Halal-Zabihah sign is on top of the freezer section pointing the large Muslim population of the area to religiously sanctioned meat products. There is even a halal butcher on site. Another section for Midamar Co. can be visibly seen as are signs for fresh meat : cube steak, lamb shoulders, ground beef, round steak, skinless chicken thighs (bone in), and chicken wings.
The very first customer was a Muslim sister in a cream colored hijab filmed by the owner who said it was pleasure to shop there and she thanked all of the workers, owners and civic leaders who brought the shop to the area. She shared how to cook the pre-seasoned halal meat that she was purchasing in a slow cooker with a Radalia onion, rice and vegetables.
According to a ShopRite corporation statement, the store will have a Q-Care health suite, managed by Park West Healthcare System in partnership with non-profit UpLift Solutions. The in-store health suite will provide walk-in convenient and quality health care services for children and adults starting October 2014. Dr. Allen Bennett, CEO of Park West states “The presence of the Park West Q-Care Health Suite within the ShopRite is such an innovation that will ensure even more quality and accessible healthcare for all. This is a first of its kind in the State of Maryland for a Federally-Qualified Health Center (FQHC)”.
Two community rooms and a kitchen classroom for students in the culinary program at Calvin Rodwell Elementary School are also a part of the store.
Howard Park residents and residents of Northwest Baltimore, once qualified, got priority consideration in hiring, according to the Howard Park Civic Association. In fact all 250 jobs were filled by neighbors, as two community coordinators on staff live in the Howard Park. The local Enoch Pratt library made librarians available to help residents file application for work at the store.
The store is owned by the Klein family who operate eight other ShopRite stores in the Harford and Baltimore Counties of Maryland.
Another step in making the area surrounding the Gwynn Oaks masjid a family-friendly section of the city.