Pigtown will become a food desert following the closure of the Price Rite Marketplace on West Pratt Street at the end of the year.
“There are no other walkable grocery stores open,” said Kim Lane, executive director for Pigtown Main Street, an economic and community development nonprofit. “It’s devastating to Pigtown.”
Karen O’Shea, a spokeswoman for Price Rite, a discount grocer that is part of New Jersey-based cooperative Wakefern Food Corp., said that despite the company’s efforts to build sales, the store has not been financially viable.
Price Rite, which operated in the Mount Clare Junction shopping center for a decade, will lay off 31 workers, according to a store closing and layoff notification filed with the Maryland Department of of Labor.
“Price Rite appreciates the loyalty of customers who have supported the store through the years and the dedicated team members who have worked hard to serve the community,” O’Shea said. “We are sharing information with our team members regarding potential job opportunities and available positions at other Price Rite Marketplace stores in the region.”
About 146,000 Baltimore residents live in food deserts, according to 2018 data from the city, with most located in low-income neighborhoods.
Diante Edwards, president of the neighborhood association Citizens of Pigtown, said the closure of the store will have a profound impact on the health of Pigtown and other neighborhoods around the grocery store.
“We stand to become a true food desert without access to any full-service grocery stores,” he said. “Citizens of Pigtown stand ready to partner with the other affected communities of the Southwest Partnership, [City Council members] Phylicia Porter and John Bullock and the owners of Mount Clare Junction shopping center, Carlyle Group, to attract a new full-service grocery option to the space vacated by Price Rite.”
Abdi Mahamedi, president of Carlyle, did not respond to a request for comment. He told the Baltimore Business Journal, which first reported the closing, that he had interest from non-grocers but was hoping to put a grocery store where Price Rite was located.
The Evening Sun
“Because of the area, not many people are interested in coming here,” he told the publication. “If you put up an attractive financial package they may consider it. But we can’t say ‘come here and then let us see what we can do for you.’”
In a statement, Porter, a Democrat who represents Pigtown as the council member for District 10, called the continuing existence of food deserts in Baltimore “shameful.”
“It is disappointing that another business does not see South Baltimore as a viable location to operate and thrive,” she said. “Many Baltimoreans have taken power into their own hands by creating their community-managed gardens.”
The closure of the Price Rite comes as the Pigtown Community Garden, which offers access to fresh fruit and vegetables, also may shut down this year due to an increase in rent.
While the office of Mayor Brandon Scott uses the term “healthy food priority area,” the Baltimore City Health Department defines a food desert as a community located more than a quarter-mile to the nearest supermarket, where more than 30% of the households lack access to a car and the median income is at or below the federal poverty level. The poverty level income for a family of four is $27,750, according to healthcare.gov.
Benairen Kane lives in the Pigtown area and said he shops at Price Rite once a month. Depending on how many groceries he’s buying, he drives two minutes or walks seven minutes to the store.
“I’m not happy to see [the store] leave,” Kane said.