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FORUM AIRS DEVELOPMENT OF GROCERY STORE

It may be a few years before it happens, but some first steps are being taken to put a grocery store somewhere on Buffalo's East Side.

One of the main concerns that emerged during a daylong forum Saturday is what type of ownership this store will have, since corporate stores have generally avoided the area.

Possibilities for a grocery store in the area came from speakers from Fort Meyers, Fla., where a privately developed grocery store is being built; Oakland, Calif., where a community development corporation found an operator and opened its own market; and Chicago, where the Hyde Park Cooperative Society has operated a co-op store for several years.

The idea of "Our Market," a community-based supermarket, is being publicly revived by Buffalo State College's Resurgent City Center, which brings academic expertise to the table on behalf of low-income communities.

"The whole purpose of this forum is to show people successful models and reinvigorate the drive for a supermarket," Khalil I. Nieves, Resurgent City Center's community organizer, said.

Masten Council Member Byron Brown says the city has put aside $160,000 that can be used to attract a market to the area and has promised significant infrastructure work.

There are several ideal areas to place a supermarket, one of which is adjacent to the new police substation on East Ferry Street, according to the Rev. Ken Chambers, executive director of West Side Economic Development Corp. in Oakland.

"East Buffalo will have a supermarket, but it must be supported by both the community and the government," said Ernie Griffin, training and customer relations director for the Hyde Park Cooperative Society. "The corporate supermarkets will not build in an area where money might be lost."

"In order for any grocery store to be successful, profit does come into play," said Griffin, noting that co-op stores run on an approximate 1.5 percent profit margin, whereas corporate stores top 2 percent.

"It is almost impossible to run a retail outlet without profit," he said. "You have to pay for the goods, the work and building costs. The profit in a co-op is only to take care of operating expenses. Whatever profits are seen at the end of the year are given back to employees (profit sharing) and to the members of the co-op (based on their spending throughout the year)."

"But the community has to make the decision, finance it (through stockholders) and want it," he said.

Describing financing of a co-op, Griffin said stocks typically sell for $10 per share. He said that some co-ops are open to stockholders only, although the store proposed for Buffalo would be open to the general public.

Nieves said a course titled "Political Economy of East Buffalo" will be held from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays, from Oct. 7 to Dec. 2, at Langston Hughes Institute. The course will help participants understand why the East Side is underdeveloped, create a mind-set to understand the political economy and then organize programs to address the underdevelopment. For information on the course, call 878-5210.

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