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North Memphis becomes food desert after only grocery store closes

Neighbors are having to go miles away to Midtown, or even further, to buy groceries.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — North Memphis is home to some of the city's oldest neighborhoods. Most residents, like Shirley Johnson of Smokey City, have lived there their entire lives. 

"Since I was five years old," Johnson said. 

While it doesn't lack history, it does lack a place to buy fresh foods like a grocery store. Neighbors are having to go miles away to Midtown or even further. 

"It’s a shame there isn't a grocery store no more in this neighborhood," Johnson said. 

Before it closed in July, Gordin's Foods and Butcher Shoppe on Jackson Avenue was the closest grocery store for most people to walk or ride the bus to even if the trip was sometimes hours long. 

"You got to go downtown, catch it too, and it’s about an hour to wait," Johnson said. 

More than just having any grocery store, Johnson said they need quality food. 

"It wasn’t worth staying in this neighborhood anyway because it had all old food and meats and everything," Johnson said. "We need a good grocery store over here."

District 7 councilwoman Michalyn Easter-Thomas said since taking office its been her goal to make fresh foods accessible for the neighborhood. Since Gordin's closed, she said she has made calls to other grocers, but wouldn't say which ones.

"I won’t share that, but a lot of things are underway for different areas as well as Frayser as well as North Memphis," Johnson said. 

Johnson said several grocery stores have come and gone over the years. 

"I’ll believe it when we see another grocery store here and it needs to come real soon because there's nothing here," Johnson said. 

When Easter-Thomas was asked why a grocery store never seems to want to stay in North Memphis, she couldn't answer. 

"I wouldn’t ask a question such as that," Easter-Thomas said. "I would ask the enterprise and the business why they chose to close." 

Johnson, like others in her neighborhood, said a long-term fresh food source should have been here a while ago. 

"Not just the areas over there, but this right here too," Johnson said. "People staying over here are just as important as anywhere else." 

As a short-term solution, pop-up grocery stores with fresh produce will be in Smokey City on August 14 and 28. SNAP and EBT will be accepted. 

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