After a series of setbacks that caused months of delays, a small grocery aims to open by the end of the month in Madison’s Allied-Dunn’s Marsh neighborhood, bringing fresh food to an area that has been without a dedicated grocery store for a decade.
Renovation work is finished, distributors are lined up and employees are being hired in anticipation of opening, said Mariam Maldonado, who owns Luna’s Groceries along with her husband, Joe Maldonado. But the race to the finish line has been bumpy.
Windows at the building — a former payday loan store at 2010 Red Arrow Trail — have been smashed, asbestos was unexpectedly found in the floor, and the historic Aug. 20 rainstorm flooded the store and destroyed two freezers and a bakery case donated by UW Health, she said.
“We took everything out, and the little bit that we left from before, the water damage made sure that we took that out,” Mariam Maldonado said. “It made things difficult because we had to do the work twice.”
She estimates these setbacks have caused about $55,000 in damage.
Luna’s Groceries received about $158,000 in grant money through the city-funded Healthy Retail Access Program last year. Maldonado said she and her husband have invested about $50,000 of their own money and have taken out $200,000 in loans. A GoFundMe campaign created in October is also more than $34,000 toward its $50,000 goal to help the store open.
Since previous expected opening dates have come and gone, Maldonado said she intends to announce when shoppers can begin picking up food on the grocery store’s Facebook page.
“I don’t want to jinx it by setting a certain date,” she said.
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Access to food in the neighborhood took a hit in 2009 with the closing of Cub Foods on Verona Road. Then, an area Walgreens that neighbors had used to supplement their grocery shopping shuttered in early 2015.
The city has identified the area as one of 10 that need improved food access.
“It’s unfortunate all of the kind of unprecedented events they’ve been faced with,” said George Reistad, the city’s food policy coordinator. “It’s coming along. It’s obviously coming along at a bit of a slower pace, but some of these things, especially with Mother Nature, you can’t predict.”
The approximately 2,300-square-foot grocery store will have a meat counter, fresh produce and general dry goods, Maldonado said, while also tailoring its offerings to the African-American and Latino residents of the neighborhood.
“We’re trying to meet the needs of the neighborhoods,” she said.
Maldonado is a neighborhood resident, living about two blocks from Luna’s Groceries with her husband and two children, Aidan and Nahya.
The grocery store anticipates hiring six employees, Maldonado said. She was shocked to have received 45 applications when the jobs were listed, joking that she “felt like it was an ‘American Idol’ situation.”
“I think her business model is one that will provide a pretty diverse inventory of goods,” Reistad said. “You don’t always need a 50,000-square-foot grocery store to meet those needs and be a convenient food outlet for your neighborhood.”