Jason Kim, who owns Linden Market with his wife, is skeptical that his customers will buy the vegetables.

"I personally don't think it's going to work," he said. "I've been around long enough to know their diet is based mostly on sugar."

Kim said he primarily sells cigarettes and snack foods these days. But it hasn't always been that way. When his father opened the store in 1987, he said, customers bought many more groceries and it was more of a market and less of a convenience store.

On a recent afternoon, a steady stream of customers purchased sodas and snacks. Children fished bright pink popsicles from a freezer case and counted out change to buy packs of candy.

Only a few customers wandered down the aisles that held dusty cans of fruits and vegetables and packages of ramen noodles. Larry Smith, 68, picked out groceries: a gallon of lemon drink, cans of carrots and pork and beans, a box of sugar, a tub of sour cream.

Smith said he sometimes buys fresh vegetables from the supermarket and would consider buying the farm's produce, but, "it all depends on the price."

But customer James Outlaw, 71, from his perch in front of the Keno monitor in the back of the store, was confident his wife would buy the local vegetables. She grows cabbage, collards, tomatoes and squash in her plot in the community garden, and is always eager to add more vegetables to their diet, he said.

"I want to be a vegetarian," Outlaw said, laughing. The couple currently travels from their home in the Lakeview Towers, a nearby senior apartment complex, to Mondawmin or Lexington Market to buy produce, unless the A-rabbers pass by in their horse-drawn carts, he said.

Holly Freishtat, the city's food czar, said the goal of the corner store project is to make it easier for residents to obtain vegetables. "People shop where it is convenient for them."

Freishtat is working with the Hopkins team and the Whitelock farm crew to bring cooking classes to nearby John Eager Howard Elementary so residents can learn how to prepare the vegetables.

As she chatted with friends in front of the Linden Market, Paula Curtis said she currently travels a few miles to Lexington Market or the Shopper's Food Store in Mondawmin Mall to buy produce.

The 57-year-old said she has been trying to incorporate more healthy food into her diet after being diagnosed with diabetes. But she only manages to get to the grocery store once or twice a month — and sometimes on foot.

"I'd buy them a lot more if they were right here," said Curtis.

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

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