November 1, 2018

A serial entrepreneur is opening the only black-owned grocery store in Detroit

Downtown has seen revitalization, but Raphael Wright wants to bring the same growth and opportunity to the west side with Neighborhood Grocery

Entrepreneur Raphael Wright plans to open Neighborhood Grocery in Detroit next year.

Communities are healthier and wealthier with good grocery stores. I am victim of the very food insecurity that affects over 48 percent of Detroit households—I was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 19. I can’t allow another child to be affected by the oversupply of convenience stores, liquor stores, gas stations, and fast food spots; and an undersupply of healthy grocery stores in our city. More than that, grocery stores are economic powerhouses to a community when stationed and ran properly.

Neighborhood Grocery is my attempt to pump the same life that we see in Detroit’s downtown into Detroit’s neighborhoods. Despite the Motor City’s resurrection from its 2013 bankruptcy, poverty is still high and the city is still largely food insecure. For me, opening a new grocery store can feed communities fresh food, good jobs, investment opportunities—and love.

One of the misconceptions about Detroit is that it is a food desert. In fact, Detroit has over 70 independent grocery stores within city limits. However, many of the city’s grocery stores do more harm than help, with many of the stores owned by non-Detroiters who do not re-invest in the city. These stores simply take their earnings and leave the community. And even though most of the city isn’t technically a “food desert,” according to a recent report from the Detroit Food Policy Council, much of the city is an “‘opportunity desert’ where income, time, and transportation exacerbate lack of access to good food for health and nutrition.”

I envision Neighborhood Grocery to be comparable to what you would see downtown—modern design, tech driven, community engaging. The food will be fresh, affordable, with prepared options to give our target market—food-insecure individuals and families in Detroit—access to a daily meal. I want to show Detroiters the good side to health—in an engaging way.

Most of all, I want Neighborhood Grocery to be representative of the community—food and services provided for us, by us. Truest to the last statement, Neighborhood Grocery will be the product of equity crowdfunding to create local and group investment opportunities. I’m destined to not only change food in my city, but change communities in my city, for good.

Raphael Wright

Raphael Wright is a serial entrepreneur and author from Detroit. Wright is the founder of Urban Plug L3C, a social investment conglomerate dedicated to economic development in Detroit’s inner city neighborhoods. It is the parent to Plug’d Media, a multimedia collective based in Detroit, and Neighborhood Grocery, a community-owned grocery store expected to open its first store on Detroit’s west side in mid-2019. Neighborhood Grocery stakeholders include Motor City Match, FoodLab Detroit, Michigan Good Food Fund, Build Institute, and TechTown Detroit. Since launching and operating several successful small businesses in Detroit, Raphael is now dedicating his entrepreneurial spirit toward equitable community and economic development.