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Petition for a new East Side grocery store

As long as Christopher Hinson has lived on the East Side he says there's been a lack of full-service grocery stores. The Buffalo mass shooting has revived the issue.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — As those killed on Jefferson Avenue are being laid to rest this week, the burgeoning discussion on the East Side of Buffalo has focused on improving the neighborhood, including access to food.

The East Side is deemed a food desert, meaning there are very few options to get fresh groceries. The Tops store on Jefferson Avenue, where tragedy struck on May 14, is the only full-service grocery store within walking distance for neighbors and with it temporarily shut down, many have been left to rely on temporary although generous solutions.

For the 50+ years, Christopher Hinson has lived on the East Side he said the existence of a consistent full-service grocery store has been more the exception than the rule.

"It would help our environment totally and that's what we're here for... I'm not thinking about no corner store we need a nice store that's going to serve all of us and not jerk all of us," Hinson said.

He recalls when Super Duper and B-Kwik both died out in his neighborhood near William and Jefferson Avenue. IGA was the latest grocery tenant to leave the Towne Gardens Plaza a few years back - its sign is now painted over and the store windows boarded up.

While it didn't last, Hinson said the fact that IGA even opened a store on the East Side was appreciated by neighbors - the same was said about the Tops on Jefferson Avenue when it opened. Instead of a revolving door of stores, they had a full-service option.

However, since the shooting, the neighborhood has been essentially put back to square one, which is why the parish council at Ss. Columba-Brigid Church has posed this question: "what can we do in response to this?"'

Ss. Columba-Brigid Church is located on Hickory Street just a half-mile from the Towne Gardens Plaza. Last week the council and Fr. Jud Weiksner, OFM, started circulating a grassroots petition that suggests adding a Wegmans in the same spot as the old IGA store. The plaza was foreclosed last September, according to our partners at Buffalo Business First.

"Although we recognize there are broader community efforts going on to figure out how we address the food needs, the nutrition needs of the East Side the timing just seemed right to start a petition," Father Jud said.

Father Jud added that while in Camden, New Jersey he worked on similar projects designed to uplift impoverished and violence-stricken areas, so the same could happen in Buffalo.

The petition has garnered between 100 and 200 signatures Fr. Jud said, as it's mostly been shared with Ss. Columba-Brigid Church parishioners. Depending on how much more support the petition gets, local leadership will likely be needed to make it happen.

Father Jud said he got all 'green lights' after speaking with a few politicians and while open to other store options, cited Wegman's 'stellar' ethics track record and being ranked as a top place to work.

Wegmans has not said if it is for or against the idea but 2 On Your Side has reached out for a response. On Monday the Wegmans Foundation announced a donation of $400,000 dollars to the Buffalo Victims Fund.

For folks like Christopher Hinson though who haven't seen much investment in their neighborhood, beyond getting a new grocery store, would be the feeling of respect that comes along with it.

"The domino effect would be growth, the domino effect would be a better way for everyone for living," said Hinson.

Fr. Jud said if people are interested in learning more about the petition to follow Ss. Columba-Brigid Church on Facebook, email them at sscolumbabrigid@gmail.com, or call 716-852-3331 extension 1.

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