Eating well is essential to good health. In Frog Hollow, a staggering 33% of residents live below the poverty line, and 48% of households rely on SNAP benefits for their nutritional needs. Many families in the neighborhood struggle financially and are food insecure. Unfortunately, Frog Hollow is characterized as a “food swamp,” where the number of places offering low-cost, unhealthy food options far surpasses retailers providing access to nutritious choices. Surprisingly, while Hartford, where Frog Hollow is located, only has one full-service supermarket, neighboring West Hartford, with just half the population, boasts eight full-service supermarkets.

At Forge City Works, we recognize that food access is a fundamental priority. Through our social enterprise approach, we have already demonstrated the demand for fresh produce in the neighborhood with our successful farmer’s market. Now, in collaboration with Connecticut Foodshare, we are embarking on a transformative project: the development of a sliding-scale neighborhood grocery store. Our aim is to increase access to healthy and wholesome foods and essential staples that are often missing from corner stores. This endeavor operates on a triple bottom line, encompassing social, social, and enterprise elements:

  1. Social: Our primary goal is to increase affordable access to high-quality, nutritious food in a manner that preserves the dignity and respect of our community members. Thanks to grant funding, we will be able to provide substantial discounts to low-income shoppers.
  2. Social: Additionally, we are committed to hosting job training programs for Opportunity Youth and individuals facing barriers to employment. By creating employment opportunities within the neighborhood, we can uplift the community and break the cycle of unemployment. Grant funding will support part of the trainee wages.
  3.  Enterprise: We aspire to run a sustainable business that achieves financial stability or generates a modest profit, allowing us to sustain our efforts in providing food access and job training.

The Grocery on Broad will serve the diverse needs of our community and cater to different market segments, including:

  • Neighborhood residents of Billings Forge apartments and Frog Hollow, comprising a significant number of Latinx individuals and low-income families. Many of these residents rely on SNAP benefits and do not own cars.
  • Young professionals who have recently relocated to Hartford and reside in places like Capital Lofts and the new downtown residential developments.
  • Hartford’s workforce, including corporate employees from companies like Aetna and The Hartford, as well as government workers with offices along Capitol Avenue and downtown.

Although these groups interact at our farmer’s market, they have distinct preferences and requirements. Therefore, our model seeks to create a grocery store that caters to all three segments, fostering a natural neighborhood feel and offering a product mix that meets the diverse needs of our customers.

To ensure accessibility, the grocery will implement a sliding-scale pricing model. Shoppers can self-certify their household size and income to qualify for discounts of up to 50%. Furthermore, financially stable shoppers will have the option to register and contribute an additional 10% or 25%, supporting those in need. The grocery store will accept various payment methods, including cash, debit, credit, as well as SNAP/EBT, WIC, and Trinity College Bantam Bucks.

We are grateful for the initial grant funding provided by Connecticut Foodshare, Hart Lift and others which will cover the buildout and initial startup costs, as well as stocking the store. However, ongoing funding will be essential to sustain the food subsidy and support the job training program.

Project Milestones & Updates:

  1. Architectural plans have been completed, providing a detailed blueprint for the grocery store’s layout and design.
  2. We have selected a reputable contractor to oversee the build-out of the grocery store, ensuring a high-quality and efficient construction process.
  3. The installation of the sprinkler system is a critical component of the store’s safety infrastructure. We have successfully bid out and selected a subcontractor to handle this installation.
  4. Build-out funding has been solidified through our partnership with Connecticut Foodshare, providing the necessary financial support to realize our vision. Additionally, we have secured Hart Lift funding from the City of Hartford to further supplement the project’s resources.
  5. In an exciting development, we have promoted Mayra Rivera, an exceptional internal candidate, to the position of General Manager for the store. Her expertise and dedication will be instrumental in ensuring the success of the Grocery on Broad.
  6. A highly anticipated kick-off event and fundraiser, named “Raise & Roast,” has been scheduled for June 25. This unique celebration will feature a pig roast and a lively “tailgate” atmosphere, bringing the community together to support our cause and generate additional funds.
  7. To bridge the gap until the store opens, we have organized weekly “Green Market Pop-Ups” throughout the summer, starting from June 22. These pop-ups will provide the community with access to fresh produce and offer a 50% discount to SNAP beneficiaries, contributing to their food security.
  8. The process of identifying vendors for various product categories within the store is underway. This careful selection will ensure that we offer a diverse range of high-quality goods to meet our customers’ needs.
  9. Collaborating with Retail Fluent and C&S Wholesale Grocers, we are working on the interior design of the grocery store. Their expertise will create an inviting and functional space that enhances the shopping experience.
  10. We are targeting a fall 2023 opening for the Grocery on Broad, providing ample time to complete the remaining preparations and ensure a seamless launch.

As we move forward with our Grocery on Broad Street project, we remain committed to our purpose and goals, which include increasing food access, destigmatizing food assistance, sharing our knowledge and model with others, providing job training, and running a sustainable business that benefits both our community and our trainees. With your continued support, we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of those facing barriers to employment and food insecurity.