CINCINNATI — Walking through Findlay Market is a food and shopping experience. Tennel and Chanel Bryant contribute to that experience with their hand-cut meats at The Country Meat Company. It's the experience they now plan to take to Avondale, but on a larger scale.
“It’s going to be unlike any other store," said Tennel Bryant, CEO of The Country Meat Company. "It’s not going to be just a basic store where you have basic build."
That's right. They plan to open a store -- a grocery store -- in Avondale. It's something the neighborhood hasn't seen since 2008, when the neighborhood Aldi store closed, and other announced or rumored grocery occupants didn't materialize.
The redeveloped Avondale Town Center on Reading Road has 15,000 square feet set aside for a grocery store option. The Bryants will split the space with the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio's Center for Social Justice. They hope the store, to be called The Country Meat Company Marketplace, will open in early 2022 or sooner. It finally means Avondale will no longer be a food desert.
“There’s not many places for them to get fresh food, fresh produce or fresh meat," said Bryant in the couple's first interview about the new venture. "So, we felt like that was the best location in the city to put our next venture.”
“We want to break that cycle, where people have the choice to have a choice of fresh meat, choice of fresh produce,” added Chanel Bryant. She said she wears multiple hats with their family business, including vice president of operations.
The couple has been working to get details in place for the new store while also running their other businesses. They operate The Country Meat Company location at the Logan Street Market in Louisville and Aunty's Homemade Food in Arlington Heights, which prepares lunches and meals for schools and businesses.
“Customers come down to the market and say, ‘When is Avondale opening?’" he said. "We get people from Walnut Hills. We get people from all areas talking about the grocery store. So, it’s gonna be a very, very big deal and we understand. So, we’re excited about it."
Construction inside the store has not begun yet. The couple said they are in the process of deciding on a general contractor. However, they do have architectural plans. Earlier this month, the city of Cincinnati approved allocating $500,000 for tenant improvements to the dedicated space within the Avondale Town Center. They also anticipate hiring around 30 employees to work at the store.
In addition to fresh meats, produce and dairy, the couple plans to include extra amenities like wine tastings and prepared meals to go.
“Everything will be local," Chanel Bryant said. "Like normal, we’ll go from the Tristate area. Definitely will have some new up-and-coming entrepreneurs that want to get a shot in the grocery store. We’ll also give them a shot in showcasing their items as well."
Community leaders see the store as becoming an anchor in the neighborhood and the spark to more development.
“We can bring in some more different businesses, some specialty shops," said Sandra Jones Mitchell, president of the Avondale Community Council. "I can see that happening. I think it’s going to make that space come alive.”
Jones Mitchell said she believes community members also will benefit from ideas to spur healthier eating habits.
“There’s a way to cook to be healthier, and using crock pots will help us," Jones Mitchell said. "So, there’s going to have be education. We’re going to have to have something in place that will complement that store.”
Jones Mitchell also said Avondale residents will need to support the store and help it grow. Meanwhile, the Bryants said they believe they have community support and they think there will be interest from neighboring Walnut Hills, which is also a food desert. But, ultimately, they want to make sure Avondale residents know the grocery store is for them.
“The wow is that this is ours, this is Avondale’s," Chanel Bryant said.
Also, if the store is successful, it may be a blueprint for more growth.
“This is just the beginning for The Country Meat Co.," she said. "We definitely want to expand. We’re just going to hit it out of the ballpark with it. From there, we’ll repeat this model in another neighborhood, in another food desert."