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Future of Healthy Bed-Stuy Grocery Grows Clearer as Shutdown Ends

 Dylan Ricards and Sheila Akbar, both 33, hope to open their healthy grocery store as soon as possible.
Dylan Ricards and Sheila Akbar, both 33, hope to open their healthy grocery store as soon as possible.
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Facebook/Bed-Stuy Fresh and Local

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — When Congressional Republicans and Democrats finally agreed on a deal late Wednesday night to end a 16-day government shutdown and fund the government through Jan. 15, Sheila Akbar and Dylan Ricards breathed a sigh of relief.

That's because the couple, who are trying to bring healthy groceries to Bed-Stuy residents at lower prices through a new grocery store Bed-Stuy Fresh and Local, were unlikely victims of the shutdown: The Small Business Administration, which provides loans and grants to small businesses across the country, was not accepting any loan applications through Wednesday.

"It put a real snag in our operation," Akbar said. "It means we have to push back our start date."

Now that the shutdown has come to an end, the future of that operation has become a little more clear.

The couple, who are looking for about $100,000 in loans from the SBA, have been working with local small business groups like Bridge Street Development Corporation and the New York Business Development Corporation to help raise money for the grocery store, at 210 Patchen Ave.

They've even raised more than one-third of the project's total costs on their own, Akbar said, in part through a crowdfunding site that raised more than $11,000 from members of the community.

"All signs point to this business being a huge success," Akbar said. "We're pretty flabbergasted that we're stalled because of political shenanigans."

The store was slated to open in November, though now there is no set date.

But with the government open for business again, Akbar said they're just waiting for approval of their SBA loan, so they can get to work bringing healthy foods to Bed-Stuy.

"We've got a lot of neighborhood support, and we're really excited about it," Akbar said. "We're still confident that we're going to be able to get going."