Home » Market Fresh Gourmet Serves Food Deserts, Communities

Market Fresh Gourmet Serves Food Deserts, Communities

fresh gourmet

Company to open two locations in 2022

by Eric Pereira / content creator

The Poppleton neighborhood in Baltimore, as well as Capitol Heights, Maryland, soon will be welcoming Market Fresh Gourmet into their communities. 

The store leadership recently spoke with The Griffin Report about serving these food deserts while also acting as a pillar in community engagement. 

MFG is a full service, minority-owned grocery store that plans to open an 8,000-square-foot MFG Express Baltimore location in May, according to Lenny Knight, chief operating officer. 

Knight said they will transition that into a 20,000 square foot store, around 18 months to two years. All construction will be dependent on supply chain hinderances for building materials as well. 

“As long as the supply chain holds up – and does what it needs to do – then we should hit the target date,” Knight said. 

The second location, a 20,000 square foot store in Capitol Heights is slated to open in September. 

“To have stores in that 20,000-footprint, that’s our sweet spot to operate so that we can [have] all the offerings we like and maintain efficiency,” Knight said. 

Mario Minor, CEO of MFG, said they have taken great pride in their business concept to serve food deserts.

“A lot of folks are starting to transition to opportunity zones and food deserts and things like that because it’s kind of become politically correct, if you will,” Minor said. “So it’s important for me to always tell folks that we didn’t just transition to this concept. We’ve been doing it all along…we understood what the needs are within the communities that are having challenges from access to food, having health issues and things of that nature.

“It is the social impact and social determinant that’s part of why we do what we do, why we have selected to choose our concept to be in such locations.”

Store merchandising

Knight said the stores will feature an array of departments, as well as prepared food options throughout the day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

There also will be a full seafood and meat department where customers can make selections cut to order. 

“We have a center store department that will carry more than 35,000 SKUs for folks to select from…our center store options will be somewhere split between 60/40 on gourmet specialty items and conventional items skewing more to the gourmet specialty side. We want to bring affordable options to areas that otherwise wouldn’t see the selection of items in the store.”

MFG also is working to build relationships with local products and vendors. 

Community involvement

Ashley Sharp, VP of Public Affairs, said MFG began community engagement at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This included partnering with county executives and local elected officials to coordinate food distributions that fed 300 to 500 families every other week. 

As preparations continue for the opening for the Baltimore location, MFG has met with different community groups and civic associations. This has included outreach initiatives such as Halloween events and 5K races. They also go door to door to let the community know about the store. 

“In our area, development is a major thing,” Sharp said. “And it’s also really political, but people like to know who’s the company, or who are the businesses coming into their communities, and what are they going to offer.”

MFG plans to hire locally, staffing all the way up to management levels and seasonal positions. Their research and development efforts continue to connect them with the relevant organizations. 

MFG is working with local and state officials, as well as community organizations, that are focused on getting people back to work.

The grocer will go a step further in community involvement by including a community room in the larger footprint. It will offer an opportunity for small nonprofits, senior groups and others to meet and collaborate. 

Providing for underserved

“It’s a beautiful thing to understand that we all are a village…because there’s a purpose to Market Fresh Gourmet. And that purpose is to address communities that we all come from,” said Arden Smith, chief marketing operator. 

Smith said they were surprised to learn the average income for Prince George’s County wasn’t impoverished, it was just underserved. They want to be able to provide healthier options to these communities too such as vegetarian and vegan options. 

“A lot of times when people say underserved communities, people always think impoverished communities, we are going into culturally rich, wealthy communities. Some are challenged with money, some aren’t,” Smith said. 

The Prince George’s location is part of the community in which Minor grew up and coming back to serve has a deep meaning to him. 

“I had no idea until I became an adult that I grew up in a food desert. I was that child, that young adult, and adult that was deprived of everything that we stand for now,” Minor said.

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