In the 11 years since she moved out of Detroit to Holly, Mich., Queen Knott has refused to change one major shopping habit.
It’s not the day of the week or time of day she goes out for groceries nor is it her 9-year-old grandson’s choice of snack.
No, the major preference Knott has maintained since 2014 has been her devotion to a particular supermarket on Detroit’s west side, now about 40 miles away from her house. Despite the distance from Holly to Imperial Fresh Market, formerly Banner Super Store, Knott still considers it her neighborhood grocer.
She and her friend Sandra Littlejohn were among loyal customers who celebrated Imperial Fresh’s grand reopening, expansion and new name Wednesday at an in-store ribbon-cutting and parking lot celebration attended by store management, city and business officials.
“It’s bigger, it’s better, it’s cheaper, it’s cleaner,” says Knott, who had lived in the community surrounding Imperial Fresh since 1973.
Knott says she circles back to the supermarket about three times a week during trips to Southfield when she drops off her grandson at school.
“I pass all the markets in Holly and in between to come here,” she says.
Knott and other store patrons beamed, snapping photos of Mayor Mike Duggan, Detroit Economic Growth Corp. (DEGC) CEO Rodrick Miller, and Sam Shina, co-owner of the family-run store at Lyndon and Schaefer near the I-96 freeway. Supporters and partners in a $6.2 million renovation that doubled the market’s square footage from 20,000 to 40,000 and added a pharmacy and deli café include Capital Impact Partners, JPMorgan Chase, Invest Detroit, W.K. Kellogg Foundation and DEGC.
Praising the Shina family for their investment before a crowd gathered in the store, Miller cited a study that once estimated $200 million a year spent by Detroiters in suburban grocery outlets.
“We’ve come a long way since those days,” says Miller. “I don’t know about you, but I like to shop where I live.”
Providing $30,000 in initial support, DEGC helped lead Imperial Fresh’s grand reopening by connecting management with funders. The effort is part of DEGC’s Green Grocer Project to promote healthy foods that are available by local, independent retailers. Auday Arabo, president of Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers, called the collaboration evidence of commitment by independent markets that have long served Detroit.
“This is a perfect example of an independent entrepreneur that doubled down on the city and expanded to twice its size,” Arabo says. “A friend of mine said it’s like a giant spaceship opened up and dropped a huge supermarket.”
Echoing Arabo’s praise about the store’s dedication, Duggan recalled his days growing up in the neighborhood around the market.
“We don’t call them startups, we call them been-ups,” he says.
“This is the kind of store Detroit deserves in our neighborhoods, and I just wanted to come here and say to the Shinas, congratulations.”
Outside the market there was a festive atmosphere as radio station KISS 105.9 FM broadcast live from the parking lot, free hotdogs were grilled for guests, and prizes were raffled under a white tent.
Knott says the multi-million-dollar grand reopening is only the latest of gestures by the Shina family that will inspire her to keep making the trip from Holly to Detroit for quality, affordable food.
“There aren’t a lot of people who care about us like that.”
Imperial is located at 14424 Schaefer Highway in Detroit. Store hours are Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.