Residents of the Deanwood and Burrville communities in Northeast Washington last week formally welcomed a new black-owned, chain-operated supermarket in the store that had been occupied by Safeway until it close last November.
For the area's nearly 20,000 residents, most of whom are elderly or without cars, the new 18,100-square-foot Super Pride at 51st Street and Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue NE is eliminating the need for them to take a bus or taxi to the next nearest supermarket -- a Safeway -- located 10 blocks away.
Super Pride, which opened its doors two months ago, was officially welcomed by Mayor Marion Barry at special ceremonies arranged by the management.
"It means a lifesaver to me," declared Omie Cheeks, 60, who had grown accustomed to carrying her groceries from the old Safeway to her home at 5348 Nannie Helen Burroughs Ave., less than a block away. "Only time I've ever felt neglected was when they took the grocery store away."
Josephine Fuller of 814 52nd St. NE said she had to catch a bus to the Safeway at Minnesota and H street NE."I was one person who had to go a long way.
The neighborhood has several other stores. Across the avenue from the new market are a hardward store, chicken eatery, liquor store, service station, dry cleaners and drugstore.
Several chain grocers have curtailed their operations in the District during the last few years. Safeway, the nation's largest chain grocer, has cut the number of D.C. stores from 34 to 25 since 1978. According to Safeway officials, its former store on Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue had "been unprofitable for some time."
The new occupant of the site is Community Foods, a Baltimore based chain of black-owned and operated grocery stores. "We specialize in operating inner-city stores," said Henry Edwards, 34, president and chief executive officer.
The six-store operation began 11 years ago with a Baltimore store that had lost over $800,000 in a year and a half, said Edwards. "We can do it as well as anyone else and there's no reason why we can't. I guess you could say we're too dumb to know it couldn't be done."
Edwards and the chain's founder, Charles T. Burns, received their training in grocery store management from Safeway and Jewel Foods of Chicago. Edwards said their store will offer the same management training for young blacks residents of the area.
Many customers said they were unaware that the store is black-owned, and were most interested in the convenience factor.
"It doesn't matter as long as it keeps the good quality food and keeps the community happy," said Blanche M. Dorsey, 34, of 4810 Coral St. NE. "I'm so glad that they're back in the area."
Community Foods leased the space of the former Safeway store with the help of a $100,000 two-year laon from the District's $750,000 business revolving loan fund, established recently with grant funds from the federal Economic Development Administration and the U.S. Department of Commerce.Mayor Marion Barry's Office of Business and Economic Development also provided technical assistance, said Edwards.
Manager James Burns said that sales have increased during the first two months. "We haven't seen anything extraordinary, but I'm continuing to see new faces." Although Super Pride carries the same selection as Safeway did, he said, the prices are lower.
The store, Edwards, said, will recycle some of its profits through projects of interest to the customers and residents of the Deanwood-Burrville area. Most notably, this will include weekly payroll payments totaling $8,000 to $10,000 to 45 employes, 40 of whom live in the area.
"Everyone is well aware of the major exodus out of this area and we want to fill the void," said Edwards, a Columbia, Md., resident who grew up in Northwest Washington.
The store offers a service fish counter, a wide selection of meats, a clean store and quality foods for the customers, said Edwards.
Omie Cheeks liked the sound of that. "You have people out here and they will eat. They don't want slop, they want decent food."