new northeast OKC grocery store
Cars pass through the intersection at Northeast 36th Street and North Lincoln Boulevard on Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. (Tres Savage)

Amid turmoil over food access in Oklahoma City’s historically black neighborhoods, Homeland announced this morning that it has signed a letter of intent to build a new 30,000-square-foot grocery store in northeast OKC.

“As an Oklahoma City-based company, Homeland is moving forward to present a unique shopping experience to provide fresh healthy grocery options to customers in the underserved northeast Oklahoma City area,” Homeland CEO and President Marc Jones said in a press release Monday. “Homeland has worked closely with and received tremendous support from our City Council members, the mayor, chamber and economic development organizations to develop a plan that will meet the needs of our friends and neighbors who live in northeast Oklahoma City.”

The Homeland press release said the store will be located at the corner of Northeast 36th Street and Lincoln Boulevard. It will feature a pharmacy and “will boast of an array of fresh offerings such as organic fruits and vegetables, freshly baked breads, a custom butcher shop and fresh, ready-to-eat deli foods,” according to the release.

The release also noted that the company plans to build a new 35,000-square-foot corporate headquarters next to the new store, which features a targeted completion date of late 2020 or early 2021.

“The City of Oklahoma City, myself and previous Ward 7 City Council members, the Greater Oklahoma City of Commerce and the Alliance for Economic Development have been talking to grocers for nearly 25 years,” OKC Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice said in the press release. “This is a health and quality of life issue that we are continuing to address and we thank Homeland for their commitment to demonstrate true leadership and respond to the needs of the residents of northeast Oklahoma City.”

Williams ‘excited’ about new northeast OKC grocery store

Homeland’s announcement comes less than a month after the Smart Saver discount grocery store closed at the corner of Northeast 23rd Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard. The store’s closure was unexpected by community members and yielded criticism of the store’s ownership group, which also runs the Buy For Less and Uptown Grocery brands in the Oklahoma City metro.

Local musical artist and businessman Jabee Williams has been a vocal critic of the decision to close the Smart Saver store, and he was skeptical of the same company’s recent announcement that it would be opening a new Uptown Grocery Store hub just east of Northeast 36th Street and North Kelley Avenue.

“I’m excited that they’re coming,” Williams said of Homeland’s announcement Monday. “I’m excited that it is something Councilwoman Nikki Nice could do and get in front of. I think it’s going to be dope for a community that has lacked that type of grocery service for so many years. ”

Williams said the size and scope of the store sounds “perfect,” even though it will be a mile north and a mile and a half west of the busy 23rd Street and MLK Boulevard intersection.

“Whether it’s on 36th or 23rd, I think right now any type of large grocery store on the eastside in that area is fine. It’s good for us,” Williams said. “At least in my lifetime, it’s probably the first time we’ll have had something like that on the eastside.”

Homeland’s parent company, HAC, Inc., operates 74 stores in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Georgia. In the company’s press release, Jones hinted that HAC has been looking at such a project for an extended period of time.

“These partners recognize the lack of grocery options in this area and have been working for years to bring this area a full-service, high quality grocery store,” Jones said. “Our leadership and employees are thrilled with the partnership and support from Oklahoma City and look forward to serving this neighborhood.”

The release noted that the entire project will be a $16 million investment that will create 75 new jobs, with hiring slated for 2020. In the meantime, Homeland must “secure final approvals and arrange leasing,” according to the press release.

Williams said a 30,000-square-foot store like a Homeland “is what the community needs.”

“They already do groceries well, so I think they saw the need and a lot of what was going on,” he said. “I’m glad they are able to come and do it.”

(Update: This story was updated at 7:15 p.m. Monday, Aug. 26, to clarify the planned store’s location.)