The Problem: An Underserved Community
West Oakland is an inner-city community of 25,000 residents who are predominantly African American and Latino. Although West Oakland residents collectively spend over $58 million a year on groceries, there are no full-service grocery stores in the neighborhood. As a result, 70% of residents’ grocery spending goes to stores in surrounding cities. But residents (many of whom don’t own a vehicle and rely on public transportation) must travel far to get to distant supermarkets, often spending 30% of their food budget on transportation costs. The inconvenience, time and cost of these shopping trips leads many residents to regularly shop at nearby corner stores that carry mostly processed, poor quality foods sold at high prices.
These limited food choices are contributing to high rates of diet-related chronic disease in West Oakland. Today, forty eight percent of residents are obese or at an unhealthy weight and the community’s diabetes hospitalization rate is three times that of Alameda County. But many residents also understand the connection between diet and health and are increasingly demanding healthier food choices, more information and education, and more supportive social settings.
West Oakland residents also desire more social and cultural experiences in their neighborhood that connect them to their communities and provide interesting and enriching occasions. Presently, there are few venues where residents can go to enjoy an event such live music or socialize with other residents in a public setting. The strip San Pablo Avenue that runs through West Oakland from the border of Emeryville to downtown Oakland lacks a single coffee shop or “sit-down” restaurant along its entire length. In addition to having to leave West Oakland to shop for groceries, residents must also leave the neighborhood to get to any kind of public venue.
Our Solution: A Neighborhood Food Store
Community Foods Market (formerly known as People’s Community Market) is a new business emerging from and building on twelve years of food enterprise experience and community organizing of its sister nonprofit organization, People’s Grocery, which has operated food enterprises in West Oakland including the Mobile Market and the Grub Box. PCM will be a full-service neighborhood food store, health resource center and community hub that engages and supports West Oakland families to attain healthier and more socially connected lives.
We will use the insight and understanding we’ve gained through many years of engagement in the West Oakland community to create a highly tailored business model that makes it easy to buy nutritious and fresh foods, prepared foods and traditional groceries at great value in the neighborhood, while also offering education, engagement and incentive programs that introduce customers to healthier food options and encourage them to adopt healthier eating habits over time. Our store will integrate two retail formats to deliver this value proposition:
FULL-SERVICE FRESH FOODS FORMAT
• Signature focus on high quality fresh foods including produce, meats and seafood.
• Produce sourced in bins directly from producers to increase savings for customers.
• Full-service integrated meat and seafood counter and full-service prepared foods dept.
• Prepared foods department will include a café, deli and Grab & Go section.
• The Front Porch multipurpose social hall will feature an order window to the Café.
LIMITED ASSORTMENT GROCERY FORMAT
• The store will carry half the number of products carried by most supermarkets in order to reduce inventory costs and target the fill-in items purchased at a high rate in between less frequent, larger shopping trips.
• Packaged grocery, personal care and household products will be limited to the top selling items in any single category that offer the greatest value.
• Pallet floor displays will merchandise products in their casings, reducing fixtures costs and increasing bargaining power with key suppliers.
While the store will be smaller than supermarkets – about 14,000 square feet – it will carry ample selection of products across all primary food shopping categories and will have sufficient space for aisles, checkouts, seating, and programs. The store will cater to the increasing diversity in West Oakland, while ensuring that existing families can get the food they need, by implementing a dual product and pricing segment strategy:
1. Value Basics – A value segment including national and ethnic brands utilizing an everyday low price model to deliver an affordable basket of everyday goods to shoppers on a budget. The segment will account for about 40% of inventory and will focus on produce, conventional meats and national brand packaged goods.
2. Extra Choice – A premium segment of specialty food products with attributes such as artisanal, organic, and local that appeal to the values of customers with discretionary spending power. This segment will represent approximately 30% of inventory and will focus on prepared foods, specialty meats, and specialty packaged goods.
We’re working with a Community Advisory Council (CAC), composed of an active group of West Oakland residents, to ensure that our plans reflect the products, services and shopping experience that the community truly wants. The CAC is important in ensuring that West Oakland residents have a direct role in planning this food market and, as a result, have a sense of ownership and pride in the business.
Our goal is to be “More Than a Grocery Store” by addressing our customers’ desires to improve their health, build community and become more socially connected. We’ll partner with community and health organizations to offer a variety of education programs, such as cooking demonstrations and workshops, as well as health services such as screenings. The store will provide a community gathering space through its Front Porch social hall, which will feature a stage, ample seating, a cafe service window and a venue for events and other social activities.
Read our Offering Memorandum for more about our plans and projections.
Our Leadership Team
We have put together a leadership team that includes people who have worked in the grocery and food service business for decades, who are bringing tremendous expertise to this venture and are committed to its success.
Brahm Ahmadi, CEO: Co-founded People’s Grocery and has 10 years of experience in organizational development, management and food enterprise.
David Guendelman, CFO: Brings years of experience as a CFO and has had a leading role in several early stage equity financings.
Anthony Gilmore, Operations: Has 33 years of experience as a supermarket executive at Safeway and Whole Foods.
Rene Cage, Deli: Has 35 years of experience in the restaurant, deli and food service industry such as Executive Sous Chef at Le Coq Au Vin.
Bill Fujimoto, Produce: Has 40 years of experience as a green grocer and produce buyer and was the store manager at Monterey Market for three decades.
Joni Wong, Grocery: Has 10 years of experience as a grocery buyer and manager including at Common Ground Food Co-op and Trader Joe’s.