Putting the fruit back in Fruit Belt

Posted at 5:50 PM, Sep 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-26 18:34:06-04

Imagine having to take multiple busses or walking several miles just to get your daily groceries. 

That is a reality for some in Buffalo's Fruit Belt. 

"How to get to Tops if I cant get there by bus is extremely difficult. I might let it go for today, and do it tomorrow," Dennice Barr, the president of the Fruit Belt Advisory Council, said.

Barr said she has to plan out her day when going to the grocery store. She has to get on a specific bus at the right time. If she doesn't, and her shopping goes too long, she has to pay for a taxi to take her back home.

"I usually end up having a driver to bring me back, if it's not stuff I can carry."

Alex Wright, the founder of the African Heritage Food Co-Op is trying to solve this problem. He wants to create an affordable co-op for people in the Fruit Belt.

"People need to be able to walk down to get fresh fruits (and) healthy food. Our areas are hit hardest by diabetes, hypertension and stroke, so the need is obvious to anyone who is looking,” Wright said.

There is one big issue, though. The co-op doesn't have a store front yet. 

It put in an offer to a private owner at 238 Carlton St., but the owner declined it. The two sides have been going back and forth, and now there’s a stalemate. The owner was initially asking for $70,000. He brought it down to $45,000, but the co-op says it can only go as high as $35,000 because renovations for the project will be at least $100,000.

"As a good business person, I think they should take a decent offer, and let us do what we need to do with the community," Wright said.

The building has been vacant for almost 20 years. In April, a fire caused significant damage to the roof.

"There's a lot of barriers to a speculator really coming in and buying the building," he said.

7 Eyewitness News was able to reach the real estate agent in charge of the property. She said the owner may be willing to come down a few thousand dollars, but the co-op still needs to raise its offer.

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