Supporting immigrant-owned cornerstores as
Thriving cornerstores are touchstones in their communities: convenient spots to grab a quick healthy bite, hubs of local economic growth, even gathering places. That’s why Bridgeway supports local food entrepreneurs offering access to fresh, healthy foods and catering to their community’s diverse food cultures.
Access to healthy food anchors a community, keeping its people and economy healthy. In Pittsburgh, immigrant entrepreneurs are acting as those anchors with cornerstores tailored to their communities. Bridgeway supported three cornerstores in their pursuit to increase access to fresh, healthy foods and provide essential cultural groceries to immigrant populations, East African Grocery in McKees Rocks, Juba Grocery in Brentwood, and Georges International Foods in Ambridge, PA.
In McKees Rocks, Abdulkadir Chirambo, a Somali Bantu, opened East African Grocery to provide fresh, affordable halal meat and East African products. Two years ago, Chirambo led the development of a community garden and urban farming project, which received a Bridgeway grant. He came back to Bridgeway when he needed working capital to open East African Grocery, which he hopes will become a welcoming destination for immigrant families and an integral part of Pittsburgh’s immigrant community.
In Ambridge, Syrian Mtanyos “Tony” Georges opened Georges International Foods, a cornerstore with a selection of healthy food and grab-and-go snacks and a cafe space offering Mediterranean fare. Georges International Foods will drastically reduce the distance that residents must travel to find fresh, healthy grocery items. It will offer healthier options for food-insecure residents who currently have to grocery shop at Dollar General. A veteran food entrepreneur, Georges has extensive experience in everything from cooking to marketing. Bridgeway supported Georges International Foods with a loan to purchase and renovate their storefront and provided working capital for critical expenses like equipment.
Before she sought refuge in the United States with her five children in 2000, Sudanese entrepreneur Lily Kenyi ran a large bazaar that sold food, clothing, crafts, and other locally made goods. Now Kenyi operates Juba Grocery in Brentwood, offering halal meat, fresh and frozen groceries, and grab-and-go meals. On the edge of a limited supermarket access area, Juba’s clientele is often also food-insecure, making her mission that much more important. Bridgeway supported Kenyi with a loan to purchase crucial equipment for Juba: a new merchandising freezer for halal products, a USDA countertop scale for properly weighing and labeling meat products, and a countertop heated display warmer for prepared food.
These experienced food entrepreneurs provide crucial services to their communities, but they all faced challenges securing capital from traditional financial institutions. With Bridgeway, these entrepreneurs were able to access loans, grants, and business assistance to move their goals forward to serve their neighbors. Each cornerstore has become a vital community anchor that contributes to the health, diversity, and economic growth that makes their neighborhoods vibrant and thriving.