People flooded the new Homeland store Wednesday to celebrate the opening day of the first full-sized supermarket in northeast Oklahoma City since 2019.
The neighboring 73111 ZIP code, which features a predominantly Black population, is noted as a food desert by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Many eating options in the area involve fast food or corner stores, which typically have fewer healthy choices. Only those who could afford to could go miles away for another grocery store.
The Market at Eastpoint
Residents of the 73111 and neighboring ZIP codes are also benefiting from the launch of The Market at Eastpoint, a 7,000-square-foot grocery store at 1708 N.E. 23rd Street.
With its origins from a community garden in northeast OKC, the store opened earlier in 2021 and seeks “to move beyond food access toward food justice and food security.”
“I’m excited for the east side,” a Homeland employee who identified herself only as Tricia said on her walk to work. “This is what we need.”
Located on the northeast corner of Northeast 36th Street and Lincoln Boulevard, the 30,000 square-foot Homeland features a bakery, a deli and butcher and items from Leo’s BBQ. The store also features a pharmacy with a drive-thru window.
Wednesday morning’s opening ceremony, featured performances from the Douglass High School band and Come-UNITY line dancers. Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt and Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice celebrated the long effort to improve grocery options in northeast OKC.
“There are so many people who were a part of this project, really going over three or four decades — and I credit the people who didn’t succeed when I say that,” Holt said during the ceremony. “This is so important for northeast Oklahoma City, but it could not have happened without that persistence and patience and truly hundreds if not thousands of people who were a part of this.”
Marc Jones, the CEO of HAC Inc. — the parent company for Homeland, which operates 80 supermarkets — said his company spent years finding the perfect site. With HAC Inc. headquarters nearby along 36th Street, the new Homeland store was built from the ground up, something Jones said was uncommon.
“This was a very well supervised construction site,” he said. “No one can remember the last time we built a ground-up supermarket.”
‘Please make sure it stays open’
While the goal of building a new grocery store in east OKC is complete, Jones said “the next journey that doesn’t end for us is operating it.”
Next week, the new Homeland and Hunger Free OK will be offering the Double Up Oklahoma Program, which matches SNAP benefits up to $20 per day per customer, Jones said.
The grocery store will also partner with Not Your Average Joe, a nonprofit that employs cognitively disabled adults, to run the coffee and wine bar.
Stopgap solutions buffer northeast OKC food desert by Archiebald Browne
Some customers of the new Homeland will benefit from a new bus stop in front of the store, creating an easier way to get to and from the supermarket. Jones said it was educational for him and others to consider transportation options, because most Homeland executives drive to work.
The store could have up to 90 employees, Jones said, with north of 95 percent of them being brand new workers.
Nice, whose district encompasses the new store, said during the ceremony that 70 percent of the employees are residents of the east side.
“This store was built for this community,” Nice said. “I ask you to please make sure it stays open.”
Jones said the company is employee-owned, meaning anyone who is hired will hold shares in the company.
“We get to hire them, but we get to say, ‘Hey, congratulations. Not only are you an employee and you got a job, but now you’re an owner at the place you work at. At the end of the year, we are going to give you shares,'” Jones said. “You don’t have to do anything. Just show up and work hard, and we will give you shares at the end of every year.”
With the new designs, planned murals and decor to match Black history, Jones said the new store will be the east side’s Homeland.
“We don’t want this to just be a Homeland store, we want this to be a northeast Oklahoma City Homeland,” Jones said. “We want to have the products people want, the decor people want to call out to the community. That’s a big deal.”
Follow @NonDocMedia on: