Black-owned grocery store fills void left by major grocery chains fleeing inner city
While grocery chains are abandoning communities of color and closing their doors, a new Black-owned grocery store has opened in the inner city that is being welcomed by area residents. The new neighbor is Bamenda Fresh, a grocery store that recently opened its doors at 9557 S. Jeffery in Chicago. The new grocer is located in the seventh ward in South Deering Manor on the border of South Shore and Jeffrey Manor. With South Deering being the largest of the 77 official community areas of Chicago, Bamenda Fresh is poised to satisfy a real need in the community. That’s because the store brings products – and value. Its shelves are filled with a full line of grocery items and customers are ecstatic.
Its hours of operation are 8AM to 8PM Monday through Saturday and 10AM to 5PM on Sunday.
To tailor its offerings to align with the tastes and habits of the surrounding community, Felix Leshey, Founder and President, assembled a team that invested considerable time meeting and connecting with the residents. At meetings they attended, they listened, observed and stocked their shelves with products that represented residents’ needs and wants. Leshey, who hails from the Cameroons, plans to hire up to ten associates from the community. One of the first hires was Emmanuel Tandong, Partner and Manager who is a seventh ward resident.
The store’s offerings include a wide array of high-quality meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, a deli, fresh produce, a frozen food department, cleaning products, an assortment of toiletries, sweets, snacks, teas, juices, carbonated beverages including its signature Bamenda Coffee. Also on the shelves are baby needs, vitamins and medicines. Bamenda Fresh boasts a kiosk where coffee and pastries can be ordered from a walk-up counter.
To entice customers, specials will prominently broadcast discounts and will be advertised on its website, (www.Bamendafresh.com). These specials will be posted throughout the store, on social media (facebook.com/people/BamendaFresh) and will be spread by grateful customers through word of mouth.
Bamenda Fresh is destined to attract customers and boast sales because Felix’s specialty is community service. His career trajectory has been marked by success, including 20 years as a top-tier management executive with the world’s largest retailer, Walmart. Since Bamenda Fresh is a Minority Business Enterprise, Felix is passionate about supporting minority businesses. Prominently on the shelves are products manufactured by Black-owned businesses including a selection of bottled teas from Pennie’s Tea. He is seeking more MBE-owned products.
Bamenda Fresh will also serve as a hub for community-enriching events. Recently, it partnered with My Home Nurses LLC to provide health screenings at the store. The store plans to add a café, a fresh bakery and intends to serve prepared meals this year to expand its offerings. Future plans also include a Community Room where customers can meet, sit and relax.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was recently held to celebrate its official opening. It was attended by Alderman Gregory Mitchell of the seventh ward. Mitchell spoke glowingly of the store, Felix, his staff, team and vision. Also prominently in attendance was South Deering Manor Community Association president Echelle Mohn. Felix presented her with a $1,000 donation to the South Deering Manor Community Association. Bamenda Fresh will also present grants to other local organizations in the future.
Felix credits his family – wife Annie, daughters Lena and Angel, sons Felix and Rocky- for their unwavering support, advice and love. In that same spirit, he declared that the greatest offering will not only be the products but also the welcome embrace by staff.