A new supermarket is a big hit in Juniata Park

The storefront of the new Juniata Supermarket in Juniata, Philadelphia

The storefront of the new Juniata Supermarket in Juniata Park, Philadelphia. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

A Philadelphia neighborhood once considered a food desert has a new supermarket, and the owner did it without government assistance.

The Juniata Supermarket cost $6 million to build from the remains of an abandoned wire warehouse.

Owner Jose Gomez said the new supermarket is a project he has built up to over decades.

“I’ve been in the United States for 40 years, all my time here working in little grocery stores, and, little by little, we are here.”

Fully stocked shelves at the Juniata Supermarket in Juniata Park, Philadelphia
Fully stocked shelves at the Juniata Supermarket in Juniata Park, Philadelphia
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Shopper Jose Rivera said he had to go to other stores to get the vegetables he wanted such as the malanga, a root vegetable with a potato-like texture, commonly used in South American cuisine.

“It’s very fortunate because the Spanish community can now get products that they don’t usually get in other stores, like vegetables and stuff like that. You can get them here for a very low price.”

Jose Rivera holds malanga, a vegetable he couldn't get elsewhere
Jose Rivera holds malanga, a vegetable he couldn’t get elsewhere. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

State Representative Danilo Burgos represents the neighborhood across the street from the store. He said the 100 permanent jobs the store creates is key for the neighborhood, which is a cultural melting pot.

“This neighborhood represents what immigration is all about, what Philadelphia is all about, what this country is all about. This neighborhood is composed of Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Palestinians, Vietnamese, Cambodians.”

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Gomez said the key to the market’s success is to sell things as cheap as possible, and to know what people in the neighborhood want and provide it in a clean, safe environment.

He added the supermarket will cater to the neighborhood and others who will come from out of the area to shop for foods from their native lands.

The supermarket is also important for people in the neighborhood who do not have access to cars and had to previously use public transit and struggle with groceries purchased from several miles away.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (fifth from right) helps cut the ribbon at the new Juniata Juniata Supermarket
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (fifth from right) helps cut the ribbon at the new Juniata Juniata Supermarket. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Mayor Kenney remarked, “Our business growth in the city has been spearheaded by Latino and other immigrant businesses. They are most of the groups that are investing in the city right now,” Kenney said.

“They bring hard work, they bring investment, and they bring families to the city.”

Broke in PhillyWHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.

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