When Sonya Greene noticed a lack of healthy food options in Detroit’s Linwood-Dexter area, she decided to take responsibility by opening her own grocery store, Linwood Fresh Market.
“Back in the day, I’m sure we all can remember the local corner market that helped our families make it through the week that offered various grab-and-go items,” Greene says. “Who didn’t take a leisure stroll to the corner store? It was a simpler time and I wish to recapture the nostalgic feeling Linwood once had.”
After 27 years as a registered nurse, Greene knows the positive impact of healthy nutrition and proper diets. It was made more evident that people needed healthier food options during the COVID-19 pandemic, Greene says, which had a disproportionate impact on Black communities.
“We were greatly affected due to underlying health conditions that have plagued us for years, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, vascular diseases, asthma,” she says. “This [was] coupled with poor diets, lack of exercise, little to no relationship with a physician or healthcare provider. So, combine all of these issues together with a respiratory pandemic, and boom — disaster.”
The 1,800-square-foot market will offer fresh food, including healthy and healthy grab-and-go meals with a walk-up counter for made-to-order smoothies and juices. It will also stock Michigan-made products, beer, and wine.
Greene’s late uncle Elmer Fuller had a barbershop in the space for nearly 40 years, and she purchased it from her aunt in 2017. To honor that, Greene’s plan for the site includes a three-chair beauty salon, along with four residential apartments.
When Greene initially started the project, she says she was told that it was going to be virtually impossible to secure a loan. “I am grateful to have been taught early on the importance of making smart financial decisions,” she says. “Because of those decisions, I was able to remodel the market without any financial assistance from banks or lenders.”
She adds, “Now don’t get me wrong, initially I sought out loans and grants to fund this project, but they proved to be either a ‘dead end’ or a ‘hamster wheel.’ … Banks are very reluctant to loan money to new start-up businesses, so I used my own.”
April Lockett, a former radio personality on HOT 107.5 and host of Ask A.P., grew up in the Linwood-Dexter neighborhood and is thrilled for the new transformation coming to the area.
“I believe it’s a great idea … not just because I grew up in this community but because this community deserves it,” Lockett says. “This area doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves — so many great things and people were birthed in this area, and I think people have forgotten about that. I’m super excited that Ms. Greene decided to keep something for us and by us in this area where this community can see that we deserve good things, and that this is only the beginning to rebuilding the Dexter-Linwood area.”
As Greene continues to work on the market, she plans to hire people from the community to assist with operating the market once it opens.
“I have two local residents that are very excited about the store,” Greene says. “They approached me early on and asked for a job. They are both young in age, so I am super excited to be able to work with them.”
Green says she has also started a nonprofit organization called the Inua Organization. “The name ‘Inua’ is Swahili, and it means to ‘raise’ or ‘lift,’” she says. “This is what I intend to do in that community.”
Greene’s hope is that she makes a difference and positively impacts the lives of the community residents. One of her missions is to inspire young children to think big and show them the benefits of remaining determined.
“Determination and persistence is key,” Greene says. “As a child, I was taught by my parents that ‘you live what you learn.’ That sentiment holds true in me today. I was taught, loved, and nurtured by no-nonsense individuals. Their life lessons have blessed me tremendously. I would like to share what I know both personally and professionally.”
To that end, Greene recently came up with an idea to place a mural on the side of her building.
“I wanted something to speak to the youth,” she says. “I found the mural online and it actually was created by an artist in Nairobi. I asked a young artist, Bryant Valdez of Southwest Detroit, to make me something similar, and he did.”
The mural features a woman, and behind her head are newspaper articles about tragedy, disaster, and despair. But she’s wrapped in newspaper covered in messages of hope, love, encouragement, and perseverance.
The final green light in opening the market will be granted by the City of Detroit, along with the Detroit Health Department.
“I am optimistic that the grocery store will open soon, but I am not sure how soon,” Greene says.
Linwood Fresh Market will be located at 12752 Linwood St., Detroit. More information is available at linwoodfreshmarket.com.