2018-03-02 ne-northsupermarket

Rose Washington, CEO of Tulsa Economic Development Corporation, and City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper pose for a portrait at the future site of a grocery store in front of the Shoppes on Peoria on Thursday, March 1st, 2018. IAN MAULE/Tulsa World

Editor’s note: On Wednesday the Tulsa World wrote the following editorial concerning plans to build a grocery store at 1717 N. Peoria Ave. Community leaders — including Tulsa World Community Advisory Board member Nehemiah D. Frank — were concerned with the editorial. The points Frank makes in this essay are important to be recognized. We want to share them.

We’re pleased to hear that a group plans to open a 16,425-square-foot grocery store at 1717 N. Peoria Ave.

Bringing a full-service grocery store to north Tulsa has been the loudest desire of area residents and the higher priority goal of its political leadership for years. That legitimate desire has led to a variety of strategies — some potentially helpful, others not so much — but it has yet to produce a sustained solution.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says north Tulsa is a food desert because it lacks a source of fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthy whole foods. “Desert” is a strong metaphor, but an apt one. It certainly seems reasonable to suspect that the lack of easy access to good food is a factor in the long-term health disparity in the same area. Residents in parts of north Tulsa have life expectancies nearly 11 years shorter than people in parts of south Tulsa.

This isn’t the first time we’ve welcomed a grocery store to north Tulsa. Crime, poor sales, poor marketing, poor capitalization and a variety of other problems have been cited for the recurring food desert problem. We hope the latest player learns from that history.

“This is going to feel more like a Trader Joe’s than it does a Save-A-Lot,” one of the effort’s lead investors said recently. That’s interesting and encouraging to hear. Many area residents will have a choice about where they shop. They can patronize the new store or drive past it on their way to an up-scale competitor in another part of town.

City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper and the Tulsa Economic Development Corp. have worked hard to solve north Tulsa’s grocery store problem. Both deserve the congratulations of the community.

But as difficult as it is to get a north Tulsa grocery store opened, keeping it open is the real challenge. We hope the new store has the right combination of elements to make it a profitable and popular member of the community.

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