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Community leaders on Buffalo's East Side pushing to start a food co-op

Community leaders on Buffalo’s East Side are looking to turn a vacant building on 238 Carlton Street back into a grocery store. It hasn’t been used for decades, but in order to restore it under community control, it first has to be purchased from its current owner, Borderland Advantage LLC. WBFO’s Nick Lippa sat down with African Heritage Food Co-Op Founder Alexander Wright and Dennice Barr from the Fruit Belt Advisory Council to discuss why this building is so important to the community.

The African Heritage Food Co-op, Fruit Belt Advisory Council and Preservation Buffalo Niagara want to restore the long-vacant building.

Built in 1876, it was originally a grocery store.  Wright said currently, there is nowhere in the Fruit Belt where residents are able to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.

"The co-op is a sharp contrast to gentrification. It's a sharp contrast to a developer coming and trying to make as much profits as possible," Wright said. "This is community-owned, community-operated and benefits the community."

Dennice Barr of the Fruit Belt Advisory Council says they are not looking for City Hall to come and rescue their community.

"Bringing good alliances and partnerships in and saying let's work together, do the benefits agreement that will longterm benefit the community," Barr says. "And not just that, but we want to be able to show that we can go back to being fully functional for ourselves in some capacity."

Nearly 80 letters of support were collected from Fruit Belt residents earlier this month supporting the efforts to purchase the building. So far two offers have been made to the building’s owner, Borderland Advantage LLC, but both have been rebuffed.

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.
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