Developer’s plan ties green technology to Black grocery storeBy Patricia Muhammad | Last updated: Feb 17, 2012 - 2:42:27 PM
Darrell Mitchell, CEO of DM Group Associates, Inc. is forging ahead with the construction of the village’s first “green,” energy efficient supermarket and a shopping center development.
Plans for Mr. Mitchell’s Claire Boulevard Development include a 29,000 square foot supermarket, a 25,000 square feet urban garden, a professional building, and a variety of retail shops.
“My inspiration to do this project was due in large to the blighted and vacant land that stood next to my tax business. We acquired the land along with the vacant supermarket, which has been abandoned for more than 40 years,” he explained.
“I am always looking for an opportunity to expand. Oftentimes we overlook business opportunities and are not even aware that such opportunities can be found in your own backyard.”
The Mitchell project would bring more than 200 jobs to the small village of 6,000 residents and resolve its food desert problem.
“Right now, there are no Black-owned supermarkets in Chicago and all of Illinois. The last Black-owned grocery store was Chatham Foods, which was owned by Leonard and Donna Harris. Chatham Foods was in operation for more than 30 years,” said the entrepreneur.
Fresh Food Market, another Black-owned supermarket, opened its doors in 2008 and closed 10 months later in 2009. Karriem Beyah was the store’s owner.
“It is important to have our own grocery business, because we can better control what we are eating, as well as what is being shipped into the stores. Food is a necessity, not a want. Our community is plagued with preventive diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol problems,” said Mr. Mitchell.
“When you do not control the means of food that are being brought into these stores, these types of illnesses will continue to persist within our communities.”
Another reason that Blacks should own and control their grocery stores is the use of dangerous pesticides that are being sprayed on agricultural products, he continued.
“The food on the grocery shelves is laden with dangerous chemicals. These chemicals have the ability to pose serious health conditions to African Americans.
With the use of dangerous pesticides that are being used on our food, African Americans are at a higher health risk,” he said.
Mr. Mitchell, an Omega Psi Phi fraternity member, owns a tax and accounting firm in Robbins and a second location in Chicago. He has operated Omega Tax and Accounting for more than 14 years.
His entrepreneurial and accounting skills have allowed him to envision positive economic changes in poverty-stricken communities such as his hometown Village of Robbins.
The Village of Robbins has a rich Black community and is the fourth largest predominately Black suburban town in America. Robbins is the home of Tuskegee Airmen, professional NBA basketball star Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat, Nichelle Nichols of Star Trek, and Disney star KeKe Palmer.
The 37-year-old Mitchell, the father of two, candidly spoke about how Blacks do not allow the dollar to circulate enough within their communities.
“Statistically, the African American dollar only recycles itself less than one percent in the African-American community. In the Asian community, their dollar recycles nine times and at least three or four times in other communities. Our money hardly ever comes back to our community, especially since we have over $957.3 billion in buying power alone in 2010. To me this does not make much sense.”
Mr. Mitchell’s economic development project has received support from village and Cook County, Ill., officials. Among current supportive efforts is work to establish a Tax Increment Financing District to assist in getting the project financed.
Cook County awarded phase one of the supermarket project $615,000 and utility company ComEd awarded a grant for $150,000. Groundbreaking for the development is slated for the summer of 2012.