West Oakland’s Community Foods Market Seeking Help to Stay Afloat
West Oakland’s Community Foods Market on San Pablo Avenue is warning that it is in danger of closing and is asking the community to step up to help keep them afloat.
They’ve launched a “Save our Store” campaign asking shoppers to commit to supporting their independent grocery store that is one of the few fresh food options for many of the community’s most vulnerable as well as a local provider of jobs.
“Like many small businesses across this country, Community Foods Market has been hit hard by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” they detail on their website. “We are now facing a financial crisis as we struggle to keep our doors open during this challenging time.”
West Oakland, long a so-called food desert, welcomed the opening of the market in 2019 after a nine year process. The market is a convenient and needed source of fresh and nutritious ingredients amid a sea of convenience & liquor stores. Many of the estimated 25,000 residents the store serves suffer from health and mobility issues that make the location the only walkable option.
Community Foods Market (CFM) founder and CEO Brahm Ahmadi detailed the grim data that has led to a desperate business climate including:
- A 28% decline in customer traffic
- 37.5% reduction in their workforce
- A combination of rising prices and lower margins
After initially experiencing a pandemic “bump” as people began stockpiling their shelves, daily traffic has plummeted. “We’ve seen regular customers go from full shopping carts, to hand baskets and now just a few items in their hands,” Ahmadi detailed in the below video along with store Supervisor Sharon Rance.
Ahmadi attributed the decline to a combination of fear of Covid and financial hardship within the community as well as the challenges of being an independent grocer competing against larger, corporate chains.
“The reality is that at this point we just have a couple of months left to get our sales back up or raise some outside funding to support our operations,” Ahmadi explained.
“We’re calling on folks like they were calling on us during Covid when we were being essential workers for everyone to come and support us,” Rance added.
Ahmadi made an appeal to the public to join their “Booster” campaign that involves committing to shopping at their store at least once a month (or online) and helping spread the word of their plight online and via referral cards. They have also started a GoFundMe campaign targeting $75,000 to help them get through this “crisis period.”
“Our goal is to increase customer traffic by 100 people a day over the next 30 days,” they explained. “This would increase our sales by 35%, moving our business toward greater financial stability.”