Southeast grocery store one step closer to reality

Alita Kelly Courtesy Alita Kelly

The founder of an equity- and sustainability-focused grocery store on the southeast side of Grand Rapids signed a lease on a building and launched a crowdfunding campaign.

Alita Kelly announced on Facebook that she signed a lease on a building that will house the South East Market, her fresh food store that will focus on ethical, sustainable and equitable products and practices and will aim to increase food access in a “vulnerable” neighborhood.

South East Market has signed a lease y'all! Thanks to your support this concept is turning into a reality for the City…

Posted by South East Market on Wednesday, August 12, 2020


The address of the building is 1200 Kalamazoo Ave. SE. Kelly’s projected move-in date is Sept. 8.

Kelly also launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $23,000 toward the costs of opening. As of Thursday morning, she raised $1,930 toward the goal.

Kelly said on the store’s website that her store will be focused on food justice, including providing “healthy and culturally appropriate food for our community through a sustainable and equitable lens.”

“Our food and products are sourced first by Black and Indigenous people of color and women. Additionally, our diligence to supporting businesses that respect environmental sustainability aligns the South East Market as the perfect place to shop for the ethical consumer,” she said.

“I’ve had a lot of support from the community, but a lot of folks are suggesting we should be a nonprofit to do this work more efficiently. I think that’s what we’re used to as far as food goes in West Michigan, but what I’m offering is dignity (to suppliers and customers) and offering this food at an affordable rate to the community.

“I believe that for-profit businesses can have a moral compass. I’m dedicated to making sure that we hold on to our values despite being for-profit. A big part of our values includes empowering intergenerational wealth for people of color, and that includes for my own family as well, but not at the expense of providing healthy food to the southeast side of Grand Rapids.”

In addition to sourcing from suppliers of color, the South East Market also will source products from other local farms and larger food distribution companies to keep pricing affordable.

The store will initially open with pick-up or delivery options, and delivery will be free to residents of the 49507 ZIP code. Kelly said on the GoFundMe page that she hopes to expand the store’s capacity beyond its first GoFundMe delivery customers and subscribers to its email list “sometime in January.”

She plans to offer in-store shopping at the building eventually. There’s an adjacent property behind it that is being developed by the same owner, architect and jazz musician Isaac Norris, that she hopes to move to once it is completed and growth warrants it.

Kelly is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan who holds a Bachelor of Science in environmental science and sustainable business. She has held food and nutrition roles in West Michigan throughout her career since 2012.

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