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Blighted Site In Madison To Become Future Grocery Store

March 6, 2021

I was delighted to read in the Wisconsin State Journal that a new small grocery is seeking to become established on the East Side. I am even more pleased that the site of the market will replace Visions, a business that was a constant source of embarrassment and sexism, and in the past years of the strip club’s existence, a growing source of crime. I had urged the city to do everything legally possible to make the blight go away.

Now there is every reason to have faith that a new legitimate business will soon grow on that parcel of land.

For more than two years, friends and business partners Kaba Bah and Jerreh Kujabi have shared a vision of offering affordable, culturally relevant groceries on Madison’s East Side, particularly for West African immigrants like themselves.

There is a need for a grocery of this type in that neighborhood, but as James said upon reading the news story, “This will be a great place to find some interesting ingredients.” Cooks and lovers of food options, other than that found at large grocery stores in the city, will respond favorably to the hard work of these two men,

Over the years I had called upon the ALRC to find their spine and use it to shutter this business. I applauded former Madison City Council member David Ahrens for  not mincing words when correctly describing it as a “blight on the neighborhood and a hub of prostitution, drug selling, binge drinking, and violence.”

I am confident that the funding sources will be forthcoming for Bah and Kujabi so to transform this location into something that will well define that neighborhood and draw folks, such as those from this home, to their grocery.

The entrepreneurs, who immigrated from Gambia more than 20 years ago, are seeking $350,000 in city funding to help finance a $1.3 million proposal.

The other reason I champion this business venture is to see another minority start-up get off the ground. This is precisely the need of the neighborhood but also the story the city should embrace and advance. It will serve as another example of how smart energized work pays off and can be as noted by Bah, as inspirational to others.

As Madison becomes more diverse, the racial wealth gap in the community persists, Bah said, exacerbated by disparities in minority ownership of assets and investments. He said he hopes the grocery store could set a model for other aspiring entrepreneurs of color and “inspire them to also take similar paths.”

James and I are looking forward to having the chance to browse their products and cook with them. I think having cooking events and sharing recipes from West Africa would be a great way to bring in customers and share foods and culture, alike.

And so it goes.

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