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Lifelong Youngstown resident plans to open grocery store in food desert

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A 28-year-old lifelong resident of Youngstown’s south side announced plans to make an investment of over a million dollars in his neighborhood — he’s opening a grocery store.

Carlos Hilton has the building, the plans and the commitment. Now all he needs is the money.

He held a picture of what his grocery store will look like. It’s a lot different from the brick building currently standing at the corner of Hillman Street and St. Louis Avenue.

“We ain’t never had no grocery store in our neighborhood,” Hilton said. “We always had to go elsewhere, so I’m just trying to be different and bring something to our neighborhood.”

He already has architectural designs of how the grocery store will be laid out. It’ll be called Gene’s Market, after his father who died a year ago and left him the building.

“He said he had a building and that he wanted to do a grocery store project, and I went, ‘Uh huh,'” Hilton said.

Deborah Blakely owns Ozone Business Gallery, a Youngstown business development company. She helped Hilton put together the business plan.

“It’s going to happen,” Blakely said. “That’s why me and you are standing here talking about it. It’s going to happen.”

Hilton currently runs a motorized bicycle business out of the building. Making it a grocery store will take over a million dollars, not including stocking it.

But it’s in the middle of what the federal government considers a food desert, with no grocery stores around.

“They have different organizations in Columbus and around the country that fund these types of projects and these types of areas,” Blakely said.

Gene’s Market will be a full-service grocery store, complete with a produce section and a meat market.

A building across the street houses a beauty salon. Once the grocery store opens, it’s hoped other businesses will follow.

“It’s all the residual things that are going to happen after it and that’s really the goal here, is to create a movement,” Blakely said.

Hilton said he worked for a while at a small market but has no real experience running a grocery store. He plans on taking some classes and hopes to be open by year’s end.

He said he’s committed to improving access to healthy foods for low- to moderate-income families in the area.

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