HOWARD PARK—Christmas, for a long-neglected section of West Baltimore, arrived in mid-summer with the July 31 opening of the Howard Park ShopRite, an oasis in the food desert on Liberty Heights Avenue.
The hundreds who gathered to herald the opening of the sparkling new $25 million grocery store included Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Baltimore City Council President Jack Young and, in a return to her grandmother’s neighborhood where she spent time as a young girl, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake, along with the scores of community activists who have been pushing for a full-service grocery store in a neighborhood where fresh produce has been a rarity for 15 years.
“I will not be going to the ShopRite on Perring Parkway, which is closer to my home. I believe in shopping in the city,” said City Council President Jack Young.
“My mother grew up on Garrison Avenue, so it was like coming back home,” said Jason Klein. whose family owns the Philadelphia-based Klein Family Markets, which operates a chain of ShopRite supermarkets in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.
Along with the excitement of the advent of quality food shopping to the community came the promise of more economic development. ShopRite’s new features includes a partnership with next door neighbor Calvin Rodwell Elementary School, whose culinary program, the first elementary school culinary program in the country, will use a kitchen in ShopRite as a food prep classroom for a student operated catering service.
The super market also has a halal section, which Marshall Klein says, “the goal is to meet the needs of the Muslim community of Howard Park.” Halal foods meet preparation requirements spelled by Muslims.
During the grand ceremony, community activist and opening ceremony host Preston Green said local activists will turn their attention to long-abandoned Ambassador Theater, whose crumbling façade faces the ShopRite across Liberty Heights Avenue. “First it was this (ShopRite), now the next big thing is the [Ambassador] theater,” he told the crowd.