BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A Bed-Stuy couple is opening a new grocery store in the neighborhood that they say will bring fresh, healthy foods to locals at lower prices.
Bed-Stuy Fresh and Local, the brainchild of 33-year-olds Sheila Akbar and Dylan Ricards, is a response to what the two perceived as a lack of convenient grocery stores with a variety of healthy options in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
The two plan on opening their location at 210 Patchen Ave. in October. It will rely less on sugary drinks and packaged foods and more on fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and poultry, as well as products from local vendors, they said.
"Candy and cookies and things like that," Akbar said, "I don't think that should crowd out actual produce."
Akbar, who moved to the neighborhood last year, joining 8-year resident Ricards, said she was immediately struck by Bed-Stuy's bars and restaurants, parks and its sense of community.
But the lack of what they considered fresh, affordable food was something the two thought was one of the neighborhood's missing pieces, she said.
"It became a reality for us," Akbar said. "I know that I want better-quality, more-affordable groceries."
They enlisted help from friends and local organizations for advice and funding, and a separate crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo, which ends on July 1, has already netted them more than $10,000 that will go towards big-ticket items like freezers and juicers.
"It's been great," Ricards said of the support for their business. "Friends and family supported, but a majority of our supporters are people that live in the neighborhood, and people that we don't know. People we've never met are donating. It's been really affirming."
One local nonprofit, Bridge Street Development Corporation, helped the duo hone their business plan and pick their location at Patchen Avenue and Macon Street. They've signed their lease, and start construction in July, Akbar said.
Kenneth Mbonu, the director of economic development at Bridge Street, said the two had a "fantastic plan," and that the grocery store can help fill a void in Bed-Stuy.
"Theres a demand for quality services and food, and there are not enough businesses supporting that demand," Mbonu said. "So it's great to see them doing something like that."
Besides being a grocery store, Akbar and Ricards hope that they can create a community institution. They're hiring people from the neighborhood, and plan to host neighborhood events featuring local artists and musicians.
Above all, they added, the store was about cultivating a healthy shopping experience for everyone.
"There are a lot of gourmet grocery stores, where I'll go in and I'll notice immediately they're too expensive and intimidating," Akbar said. "We want this to be a neighborhood market. We really do believe in that."