Detroit Grocery Incubator Graduates 3 Fellows

Author: Terrence Hicks

Besides redesigning the food system to ensure access to healthy food for all, Fair Food Network knows that a sustainable food system can also mean economic development for Detroiters. Beginning in the fall of 2011, Fair Food Network implemented the pilot Detroit Grocery Incubator (DGI) program, seeking to train potential grocery store entrepreneurs to open and operate food-related businesses in their communities.

DGI’s first class involved four students – DGI Fellows – and  included a 3-day intensive grocery store ownership program, a10-week FastTrac NewVenture food industry training program at TechTown in Detroit, and a 12-day excursion to Philadelphia for  a close-up look at a number of Brown’s ShopRite stores. The 3-day program was taught by Jeff Brown and his non-profit organization, UpLift Solutions. Jeff Brown is the owner of 12 Brown's ShopRite grocery stores in Philadelphia and surrounding areas. Jeff has had great success partly because of his double bottom line approach to ownership: community involvement combined with providing products unique to the community in which the store operates.

FFN Image Grocery StoresThe FastTrac NewVenture program included classes focused on developing business plans and conducting retail business operations. It also included presentations from successful food industry entrepreneurs. One of the most unique aspects of the program was the Fellows’ Philadelphia experience: two of the Fellows, Isaac DeGraffenreid and Jared Saverino, travelled to Philadelphia and received a hands-on experience in  operating grocery stores, from receiving produce on the receiving dock to theft prevention. "The experience and the knowledge I received from the trip to Philly was the best hands-on activity I could receive," said Isaac DeGraffenreid.

The DGI program helped to forward the ambitions of those who dream of opening grocery stores in their communities and graduated its first cohort of Fellows on October 30, 2012. The graduates are: Isaac DeGraffenreid, Jared Saverino, and Calvin Moore. Their future plans are to open an on-line grocery store (Jared) and WIC stores (Isaac and Calvin) in the city of Detroit. In the meantime, they’re getting added experience by participating in our upcoming integration of the Double Up Food Bucks program in select independently-owned grocery stores in Detroit.