Gem City Market impact, improvements four months after opening

Miami Valley News

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – After opening in May, Gem City Market is serving numerous community members in an area previously considered a food desert. Now that the co-op grocery store is settling into the West Dayton community, shoppers and staff are discussing the store’s progress. 

“Before, if [people] wanted healthy, nutritious food they either had to go a long way out of the community, or they had to go to kind of convenience type shops that either marked up the fresh foods or they weren’t available,” said Jaimee Ryan, program manager for Expressions of Life and member owner at the market.

She said the location is also giving Dayton residents more personal time, since they don’t have to travel outside the city for groceries. It’s also helping foster positive interactions. 

“Before, if they’re all going different places they’re not going to see each other. But this is building community because you see your neighbor in the grocery store, ‘Hey how you doing, how’s your aunt? How’s your cousin?’ You know? So it’s building community in other ways than just healthy food,” Ryan said.

However, manager of the store, Leah Bahan-Harris said the market faces challenges some larger stores don’t. Some of those are reflecting in operational costs.

“We have all kinds of back end expenses that we’re solely responsible for as a small store. Bigger stores have, you know, crews off-site that do a lot of the work for them, and we have the hands of people right here at the market that do all of the things from the marketing, to making the signs, to cleaning the bathrooms, to taking out trash,” Bahan-Harris said.

She said the store also employs a handful of full-time workers whom they commit to paying a fair wage. But even with those expenses, she said pricing at the store is still competitive. 

And Ryan said if there’s something the store doesn’t currently carry but that shoppers would like so see, “They’re really, I think starting to reach out to the members and the shoppers as to what they would like to see. So there’s a big push. I filled out at least two surveys of the products that I want to see which is huge.”

To learn more about Gem City Market, or to donate or become a member owner, click here.

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