DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – After six years of planning and a year and half of construction, the Gem City Market is finally ready to open to the public. 

“There were days where it felt like we might never get here, but we got here,” said co-executive director of CO-OP Dayton Lela Klein through teary eyes, as community leaders and Dayton residents gathered outside the store Tuesday to celebrate an end to a years-long food desert in West Dayton.

General manager of the store, Leah Bahan-Harris, said she’s looking forward to bringing convenience to community members who deserve better access to healthy options.

“I think to touch a community in general that hasn’t had access directly to fresh food and vegetables in a decade or more is going to be impacting,” she said. “That people don’t have to ride the bus for an hour, have to be on foot, or figure out potentially where their next meal is coming from is very empowering.”

Tony Hall, former congressman and president of Hall Hunger Initiative, led the charge on fundraising for the store. He said was able to see the community’s generosity and desire for the market throughout the process. 

“It was a labor of love really. Normally, I don’t like asking people for money, but this was not only fun, but it was a labor of love,” he said.

And with a new coffee shop, culinary learning center, and community gathering space, Dayton City Commissioner Jeffrey J. Mims, Jr., said he looks forward to the skills and connections community members will take home along with their groceries. 

“That type of service and commitment to improving the quality of life through food is something that’s very important,” he said.

Gem City Market is community owned. Those interested in investing can visit The grocery store is set to open Wednesday, May 12.