By E.B. Allen, Neighborhood News Hub
For Gwendolyn Hicks going to work is like a 40-hour family reunion.
The long-time resident of Detroit’s east side has made her way up and down Jefferson Avenue to Parkway Foods grocery stores just about all her life, either shopping or working.
“We are basically family,” says Hicks, who has worked at Parkway for 22 years. “I grew up going to the first store and grew up with everybody here.”
Parkway has a reputation for treating, not only neighborhood locals like Hicks as family, but also churches and community programs.
It recently celebrated a one-year anniversary at its new location at 11250 East Jefferson. The cavernous but friendly 47,000-square-foot space was once a Farmer Jack supermarket, which left in 2007. Parkway moved there last year from a smaller location in River Bend Plaza at East Jefferson near Dickerson Avenue, where it had opened about 30 years ago. This is the third Jefferson Ave. address for the store, all within a mile of each other. Parkway has served Detroit for more than 40 years.
“This building was sitting vacant for seven or eight years. We took it and opened (our store), then attracted new businesses to the strip,” says Vince Nona, whose father Louay Nona co-owns the store with brothers Neil and Micky Yaldo. “We offer everything.”
Along with a full-line variety of standard grocery products, Parkway’s newest store has expanded its offerings to include organic, vegetarian and gluten-free products.
“We also are a part of a program called Double Up Food Bucks,” says Nona. On that program when a family spends $10 in supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) benefits (formerly known as food stamps) at a participating farmers market or grocery store, the family receives an additional $10 of Double Up Food Bucks to purchase Michigan grown fruits and vegetables.
Apart from serving as an anchor tenant in the strip west of Conner Avenue, which has grown to include multiple retailers, the management has launched programs for community outreach. A spring event arranged with support from the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation brought a few Detroit Lions players to Parkway, where they manned food stations and chatted with customers about healthier food choices.
Parkway employs a staff of 43, more than half of whom live in the market’s surrounding neighborhood. “This is the area we know and love, and people know us here. The east side is where we like to serve,” Nona says.
While watching the Chaldean-owned company quadruple in size from the store she patronized as a child, Hicks has worked her way into the position of head cashier and is grateful Parkway is devoted to her neighborhood. With the new location’s diverse selection and hot food buffet, which serves meals daily, Hicks says the market rivals major chain outlets located in the suburbs.
“It’s a neighborhood store, and most of the other supermarkets are gone,” she says. “It helps out in the community a lot.”
Photos: Paul Engstrom
– This blog originally appeared in a new publication, The WEIGH/Neighborhood News Hub. Detroit Unspun is a partner in that venture.