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Fresh Corner Café L3C wants to bring healthier foods to Detroit

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By C.L. Price, The WEIGH/Neighborhood News Hub

When customers walk into an urban party stores with a hunger for food, their options often lack nutritional value and taste, says Noam Kimelman, who hopes to do something about it through his Detroit-based company, Fresh Corner Cafe L3C.

The executive director wants to provide better options for hard working Detroiters and is working feverishly to improve his business and related outreach.

The Cafe’s L3C designation reflects its status as a limited low-profit organization, which allows the company to use proceeds from one group of customers to helps subsidize the cost of food sold to low income customers.

The company hopes to expand affordable access healthier foods to the masses, particularly city residents.

“Some people try to subsist on a diet of potato chips and pop, but it isn’t healthy,” says Kimelman, the executive director of Fresh Corner Cafe and healthy food access advisor at Eastern Market and Whole Foods.

Fresh Corner Cafe Owners  Noam Kimelman, Val Walker and Nick Waller

Fresh Corner Cafe Owners Noam Kimelman, Val Walker and Nick Waller

All too often the only food found in the corner stores he visits are plastic-wrapped sandwiches made of processed meat and cheese that could sit up to a month in the cooler before purchase. Either that or prepackaged snack food such as fried pork rinds, potato chips and cheese puffs.

To make matters more complicated, the party store may be the only source of food for those strapped for cash and with limited transportation access. Fresh Corner Cafe wants to change that paradigm.

The company, which originally launched with six co-owners, began to deliver healthy options to corner stores, growing the business to 35 outlets before they ran out of money from various grants and investments.

Kimelman admits the owners lost $7,000 a month and lost four of the co-owners, who were forced to find jobs out of economic necessity. Although out of the day-to-day business operations, they remain committed to helping build the business back-up.

He turned to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s SCORE program, which paired him with a Detroit mentor. This mentor helped him establish goals and urged him to get an accountant to help him track costs and progress. Also, he learned how to conduct a spreadsheet analysis.

Kimelman and co-owner Val Walker began anew and put more emphasis on their catering business as another income stream. Word of their business traveled quickly because their food is healthy, tasty and affordable.

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Their delivery service changed from a dedicated truck and driver to a group of drivers traveling fixed routes, using their own vehicles and paying their own car insurance. Instead of renting a commercial kitchen, they use a packing house that makes the food, prepackages and labels it for the company.

Fresh Cafe drivers stock coolers two or three times a week at seven workplaces, including the Green Garage in Midtown where the business is based. They also stock coolers at 10 corner stores that match the selection criteria.

Fresh Cafe seeks the kind of party store that would embrace fresh food and encourage customers to purchase it– ones that were well lit, clean and run by enthusiastic owners.

As more people become aware of nutrition, Kimelman sees a surge in demand.

“We’d like to get up to 50 corner stores and 50 work places all around metro Detroit,” he says. “Our core mission is to ensure Detroiters have good food to eat.”

– This blog originally appeared in a new publication, The WEIGH/Neighborhood News Hub. Detroit Unspun is a partner in that venture.

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