A small convenience store could open in Chattanooga's West Side within the next few weeks, according to two potential store owners.
"We'll have a little bit of everything, like a small Walmart," Amin Ali, who manages Golden Gateway Apartments, said Tuesday to a group of more than 70 residents at the Renaissance Church.
The meeting was put together by the local advocacy group Chattanooga Organized for Action.
Ali helped prospective store owners Shehnaz Mirza and Karim Badruddin answer West Side residents' questions about the business, which they say they want to open in the Grove Street Center.
College Hill Courts resident Betty Bishop said she lived in the community when past promises of a grocery store were made and never materialized. But she has faith in this effort, she said.
"I've got a feeling it's going to happen," she said. "There's just so much support. I've just got that feeling."
The community, which includes several high-rise apartments for people who are elderly or disabled, has been called a food desert because of its lack of access to a grocery store.
But the store can't happen until Grove Street owner David Collins gives Mirza and Badruddin a lease. He won't give them a lease, they said, because he wants them to rent a larger space in the center. They want to rent a smaller space, then move to a larger one after the business has developed.
Collins said the space they want is about 480 square feet, about the size of a one-car garage. By allowing a store in a space that small, he almost forfeits any chance of getting a larger grocery store in the center, he said.
"It can't happen because then you deter someone who wants to put a full-size grocery there," said Collins, who is based in New York.
Mirza and Badruddin promised the audience Tuesday that their store would sell some fresh produce, meat, canned goods, toiletries, cigarettes and tobacco, but no alcohol.
The pair also promised to hire residents to operate the business when they could afford it, a statement that brought applause and cheers from residents.