Even with substantial financial assistance from the city of Akron and Acme Fresh Market, Henry’s Acme in West Akron struggled to survive from the beginning. Sadly, the store, Acme Fresh Market’s only franchise, will close May 30. The recession and increased competition from discount food stores, dollar stores and the like pushed owner Henry Johnson to make the painful decision.
The city has made a substantial commitment to bring grocery stores to urban neighborhoods, a strategy that has met the demands of local residents and fit with a sound policy of seeking to revitalize older areas of the city. Dave’s Supermarket on East Exchange Street helps anchor the surrounding area. In Highland Square, the city is backing construction of a new Mustard Seed Market. As with Dave’s Supermarket, a low-interest loan from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development was crucial.
A key element in planning these efforts is the concept of urban “food deserts,” areas that lack access to fresh food. It may be that the West Akron neighborhood near Henry’s Acme no longer fits the definition. The city must look carefully at what happened before backing a similar enterprise in the neighborhood.
As the long-awaited Highland Square grocery store takes shape, residents in that neighborhood also should pay close attention to what happened to Henry’s Acme. City planners remain confident there will be enough sales volume to support the store, eventually allowing owner Phillip Nabors to purchase the site from the city.
The city of Akron has gone the extra mile to bring a new grocery store to Highland Square. Soon, Nabors will do his part, as he has with his other successful stores in Northeast Ohio. Then, it will be up to local shoppers to provide the support needed to sustain the store, adding to the revitalization of the diverse neighborhood.
Soon, Highland Square will have its food oasis. The new store cannot carry all the items hoppers might want or offer prices that beat all competitors, especially on staples. Still, Highland Square residents should remember their persistent clamoring, then make sure they walk through the door to patronize their local store.