West Oakland community grocery store opens, first in neighborhood in more than 40 years

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West Oakland residents rolled, strolled, bused and biked Saturday to an opening celebration for the first full-fledged grocery store in their neighborhood in more than four decades.

The Community Foods Market, a group effort initially funded with $2.2 million in seed money from neighborhood residents who purchased stock in the store, opened Saturday at 3105 San Pablo Ave.

The site is centrally located to the McClymonds, Hoover-Foster and Clawson neighborhoods of West Oakland.

"We opened in response to community needs," Brahm Ahmadi, the store's founder and chief executive, said in an interview at the 14,000-square-foot store as shoppers poured inside Saturday morning.

"This area has long been a food desert."

Ahmadi was alluding to the fact that the lone grocery in the area, a Safeway, closed in the mid-1970s, forcing the approximately 9,000 residents to travel elsewhere to shop for food or buy at liquor stores.

"I've lived here 21 years, and the whole time we have had to go out of the area to get fresh produce," said Janet Forehand, who lives four blocks away.

Her cart was filled with lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, pears and cilantro.

"The health impact of food deserts includes diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity," Ahmadi said.

He said one of his principal objectives was to bring more healthful food to the community.

With a pounding beat from Catch the Vibe Ensemble, a student group from the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, in the background, shoppers sampled free salami, juice and cake and visited booths from community agencies including Alameda County Diabetes Education and Advocates For Health.