After years of planning and fundraising, West Oakland’s People’s Community Market has finally broken ground on its 14,000-square- foot space at 3103 Myrtle St. Now, however, it’s known as Community Foods Market, a name that founder Brahm Ahmadi says better aligns the grocery with its mission.
“Community Foods market is more in line with our our mission and what we’re all about,” Ahmadi told Eater SF. “Which is about providing really great quality fresh foods at affordable prices in the neighborhood — the old name didn’t say food or grocery, so for some people wasn’t obvious — and the opportunity for this project to have a focus on community building and social cohesion and interaction.”
Ahmadi has been working towards this moment for over 15 years as a community organizer, focusing on West Oakland and its immediate needs. Soon, Community Foods Market will be an anchor in a neighborhood lacking in fresh food resources, helping residents
“We don’t want to be a niche retailer, servicing a relatively small segment of the neighborhood. We want to be broad serving to all the diverse demographics and I think part of our intent was to create a more mainstream brand image that appealed to a broader population. That’s the level of success we want to achieve: Serve the neighborhood at a larger scale, draw foot traffic.”
For now, Ahmadi is focusing only on the community he’s worked to serve for almost two decades, rather than creating a scaleable model. “I’m really about West Oakland and have been for 15 years, so that’s my commitment and focus at this point. When growth is the goal from the beginning it can distract from focusing on the details.”
In this case, those details are the direct result of Ahmadi’s work with neighborhood groups, including a community advisory council and focus groups that have guided the development of the market.
The Front Porch and Social Hall are market features are an example: Ahmadi had planned a straightforward deli concept for the grocery, but after engaging with the council, it became clear that people in the neighborhood wanted a prepared food destination, a small restaurant where they could go for an experience.
“An important part was understanding that people are desiring to have experiences, as well as convenient food,” says Ahmadi. “People want a night out, or recreational experience that they’d otherwise have to leave the neighborhood for.”
The cafe will double as a venue for social gatherings and entertainment like poetry readings and supper clubs, in addition to the grocery’s offerings of fresh produce, pantry staples, and the like. There will be community education, and incentive programs partnering with the USDA as well.
If all goes as planned, Ahmadi and his team are targeting a mid-October opening date; stay tuned for more details. In the meantime, head over for an opening ceremony and community blessing this Saturday, April 21 from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m., featuring music, soul food, talks from community leaders and more.