Long-awaited grocery store to open this week on Chattanooga's Westside

Long-awaited grocery store to open this week on Chattanooga's Westside

August 27th, 2012 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Steve Vaughn and his wife, Ruby Vaughn, distributers for Little Debbie, stock the shelves in a new convenience store called One Stop Shop in the Westside neighborhood. The owner said he hopes to open on Wednesday.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

The Westside is going to get a grocery store, for real this time.

Shipments of groceries, toiletries and dishwashing detergent are already on the shelves at the Grove Street store. Potato chips and stands with cotton candy sit in the front of the store. And the refrigerators in back already contain drinks and applesauce.

Sal Mohamed, manager of the One Stop Shop, said he wants the opening date to be Wednesday if the rest of his groceries come in.

"You'll be ready to go Wednesday," said Steve Vaughn, one of three distributors in the store Friday afternoon.

Vaughn drives for Vaughn Distributors and delivers baked goods from McKee Foods.

If all goes as planned, it will be the first time the Westside community has had groceries within easy walking distance since the Dollar General Store closed in 2010.

The neighborhood hasn't had a full-service grocery since Sherman's Westside Grocery Store, which opened in the 1980s and closed in the early 1990s, said former Westside resident Bobby Paris.

Mohamed said the One Stop Shop will include bread, canned goods, fresh produce, a meat area with a butcher and hair products.

Being without a grocery or even a Dollar General Store has been hard and expensive for Westside residents, said Cassandra Robinson. About a third of the nearly 3,000 residents in the Westside are elderly or disabled, and a number of them don't drive. It's hard carrying sacks of groceries on the CARTA bus, and the cab fare from the Westside to the Bi-Lo in St. Elmo is about $10. That's one way, said Robinson.

She peeped through the window Friday while truck drivers made deliveries. Then she went in.

"Are you hiring? I'd like to work second shift," Robinson said.

The store will be open every day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., said Mohamed. He asked her to add her name on a list of people looking for work.

The Rev. Leroy Griffith strolled through the community Friday afternoon with Chattanooga Organized for Action founders Perrin Lance and Chris Brooks, all of them excited about the store opening.

"The people on the Westside did this," said Griffith, pride in his voice. "It took longer than we planned, but we did this in spite of the neglect or opposition from the city and the Chamber of Commerce and all of the other people who claim to bring in business."

Griffith said he gives thanks to God and "the bilingual people who are affluent in Arabic" for the store coming to his community.

Griffith and Chattanooga Organized for Action led a march from the Westside to Buehler's Food Market on Market Street in December 2010 to highlight the need for a grocery store in the community.

Buehler's, the closest grocery, is about a three-mile round trip from the Westside. Residents say that's a struggle when carrying groceries, and an even bigger problem for people who use wheelchairs.

Griffith cheered about the store while sitting at Renaissance Presbyterian Church.

"The poor folks, the old retired folks and the handicapped are victorious," he said.