It’s been several years since Hazelwood’s last grocery store, Dimperio’s, closed. According to Chatham University food studies graduate Dianne Shenk, the neighborhood now officially qualifies as a food desert.
But Shenk is aiming to change that, and last summer she opened a produce stand in an empty lot at the corner of Hazelwood and 2nd avenues.
“In my mind, food access is an income issue,” Shenk said. “So my motivation is to design fresh food in a community like Hazelwood in such a way that it creates income for the people living there.”
Shenk said she had figured out that she needed 80 customers a day to make her food stand financially viable.
“It was much more likely that I’d get 80 customers if I partnered with other small food businesses like a coffee shop, or a bakery or somebody providing hot food, prepared food,” Shenk said.
This summer, Shenk is doing just that. Her produce stand, Dylamato’s Market, will be joined by Philadelphia Water Ice, a few different prepared food vendors, and a bakery and café.
“All of the folks who I’m working with who are going to be there providing food this summer live in Hazelwood,” Shenk said. “They’re all start-up, small business entrepreneurs. They all have been to culinary school, they all have dreamed of owning their own small business for years, and they just haven’t had a space in which they could make that dream come true.”
According to City Councilman Corey O’Connor, who represents Hazelwood, the land is owned by Urban Redevelopment Authority and is rented by the nonprofit Hazelwood Initiative community group.
Shenk said the Hazelwood Initiative, of which she is a board member, will charge vendors nominal rents, and will use a $5,000 grant from City Council's Neighborhood Needs fund to pay for construction of shelters and installation of an electrical line.
In the future, Shenk said she would love to see a permanent indoor market on the site. O’Connor said Action Housing has an option with the URA to purchase the site, as well as another vacant lot across the street.
“They’re going to be building across the street a new building where it’s actually going to be a neighborhood kitchen, and above there office space,” O’Connor said.
Shenk said the food market will have a soft opening May 2nd and 3rd, and a grand opening later in May.