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Business owner, city, county and state collaborate to bring oasis to Euclid food desert


Simon Hussain has found success in the grocery business by listening to what his customers want and need. “If customers need something and you don’t provide it, they stop coming,” he says.
 
Hussain opened his first Cleveland grocery in December 2003 and will soon open his third Simon’s Supermarket in Euclid’s Family Dollar Plaza, 25831 Euclid Ave. The store is located in a neighborhood considered to be a food desert, with limited access to healthy food in an area of dense poverty.
 
Hussain plans to offer fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy food at Simon’s Supermarket, as well as hire 50 full- and 10 part-time employees. While hosting an open house last month at the 27,000-square-foot store, Hussain invited residents to have a look around and provide feedback on what products they'd like to see lining the shelves.
 
Of the 90 residents who turned out for the event, 16 provided comments on a feedback form. Suggestions such as ”Keep fresh food and the store will make it in this area,” and “Make the prices of fruits and veggies more affordable for low income families and single parent families” guided Hussain’s decisions in creating an attractive shopping experience.
 
“It’s a very good location on a main avenue,” Hussain says. “People really want a supermarket around here.”
 
In 2012, the city of Euclid applied for a Health Impact Assessment (HIA), conducted through the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) to assess the needs of a four-mile stretch of Euclid Avenue. The findings included a section on healthy food access - and the lack of it in this area. Other concerns included store security, employment opportunities and access to quality food options as a whole.
 
“Simon’s Supermarket is an opportunity to address health disparities in this neighborhood through increased access to healthy food, employment opportunities for local residents and by serving as an anchor business that may attract more businesses, jobs and investment,” says Roger Sikes, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health’s Creating Healthy Communities program manager. “[The study] surveyed residents regarding their perceptions and priorities related to health, jobs and environmental concerns. Some of the main issues cited by residents was the need for a supermarket and jobs.”
 
Based on the findings, Hussain, the City of Euclid and the Creating Healthy Communities program teamed up to make the Simon’s Supermarket in Euclid a reality. Hussain received $250,000 from the Healthy Food for Ohio Program for in-store construction and equipment. Euclid’s Storefront Renovation Program provided $125,000 for external renovations and a parking lot upgrade.
 
“This example of collective support from local government, Euclid residents, the store owner, the County Board of Health and the Healthy Food for Ohio Program may also help to expand efforts to implement full service supermarkets in low-income communities across Cuyahoga County,” says Sikes.
 
In addition to the main floor, Hussain says there is an additional 13,000-square-foot space in the basement that's ideal for storage of dry goods.

Hussain plans to open in mid-November.

“It looks very nice, and it’s a decent size,” he says of his latest venture. “I’ve received very good feedback from the community. If you want to stay in the business, you have to have healthy food. People really want that. It’s the neighborhood store, so you have to have what they want.”

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 18 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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