Once there was a grocery...
For 89 years—from 1927 until February 2016--there was a grocery presence at the Central Topeka location of Huntoon and Lane, serving residents of the area as well as commuters to and from downtown, and employees of nearby businesses and schools. The store was a hub of activity providing fresh meats, fruits and vegetables, jobs to which neighbors could walk, and a community place to meet and share with neighbors.
The original Dibble’s store closed in 1975 and the store became a Dillion’s grocery in 1976. That store’s tenure came to an end when Kroger closed its Huntoon store in February of 2016. A group of neighbors set out immediately to try to secure or start another store to serve the nine neighborhoods of Central Topeka--a heady task for any community, as both a building site and money to build had to be found.
Although the initial effort failed, another attempt began in March 2018. A group of leaders, including three neighborhood presidents, began meeting with regularity and with determination to bring a grocery store back to the area. They called themselves The Central Topeka Grocery Oasis Group. They found census data that created a picture of the neighborhoods most affected by describing the economic, social and racial makeup; the transportation needs; and the number of disabled residents of the area affected by the loss of the grocery store. At the same time, the Shawnee County Health Department released data related to health disparities of the area, including the relationship between healthy food and school performance, attesting further to the need for access to healthy food for all.
Soon, GraceMed, a holistic healthcare ministry with a focus on making healthcare accessible to those who are underserved, purchased the Dillons property, a city block bounded by 12th, Washburn, Huntoon and Lane, to house its GraceMed Capitol Family Clinic, that opened in August 2018. Next, the CTGO Group, partnering with the Shawnee County Health Department and Go Topeka, prepared a grant application seeking funding from the Kansas Health Foundation to conduct market research to determine whether a grocery in Central Topeka would be economically sustainable. Consequently, the CTGO Group was awarded a $12,500 grant from the Kansas Health Foundation. The Dakota Worldwide market study it enabled supported the development of a new Central Topeka grocery store, and GraceMed is leasing one acre of land north of the clinic to CTGO for the store.
CTGO is pursuing other government and private sources to build a 14,000-square-foot store. It has obtained its 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status with the assistance of the Community Resources Council and is continuing to research and join hands with members of the community who understand the need and future of providing fresh foods for Central Topeka’s nine core neighborhoods: Ward Meade, Historic Old Town, Elmhurst, Tennessee Town, Historic Holliday Park, Monroe, Central Park, Chesney Park, and Quinton Heights/Steele.
The Topeka community and region continues to generously support CTGO to make the dream of a new community grocery store become a reality.
The Topeka Community Foundation (TCF) awarded CTGO $95,000 in early 2022 for attorney’s fees and salaries and fees to hire other staff. The Sunflower Foundation also awarded a discretionary grant of $10,000 in 2022 that will enable CTGO to fund a broad scope of work.
The largest grant to date was awarded Nov. 15, 2022, when the City of Topeka designated federal American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds in the amount of $628,000 to the CTGO Group to purchase economically- and environmentally-sustainable refrigeration equipment for the store.