The Central Topeka location of Huntoon and Lane hosted a grocery store that served the Central Topeka area as well as commuters to and from downtown from 1926 to 2016: 89 years. It was a hub of activity providing fresh meats, fruits and vegetables, jobs to which neighbors could walk, and a place to meet and share. It was a place of community.
The announcement that Kroger had decided to close its Huntoon Dillons store in February 2016 rocked the neighborhoods it served. The notice was short, and in two large meetings customers and workers expressed their distress and disappointment.
A group of neighbors set out immediately to try to secure or start another store at the location, a heady task for any community. So both site and funding had to be found.
Although that effort did not succeed, another erupted in March, 2018. A group of leaders, including three NIA/NA 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 (CTGO). They found census data that created a picture of the neighborhoods most affected by describing the economic, social, racial, transportation, as well as 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 relating to health disparities of the area including the relationships between healthy food and school performance, attesting further to the need for access to healthy food for all.
Meanwhile, Grace Med purchased the Dillons property, a city block bounded by 12th, Washburn, Huntoon and Lane. Together the CTGO and partners from the Health Department and Go Topeka prepared a grant application for funding from the Kansas Health Foundation to carry out the next necessary step in the creation of a new store: market research to indicate whether a grocery in that location was economically sustainable.
The positive results of the market study funded by the Kansas Health Foundation Grant supports the development of a new grocery store near the old. Now the Grocery Oasis Group is working with a property owner, government and private sources toward the creation of a 14,000 square foot store. It has joined the Community Resources Council under its 501c3 umbrella and is continuing to research and join hands with members of the community who understand the need and future of fresh foods for our people.