Lena’s is Coming to Riverwest!

by Tanya Cromartie-Twaddle The empty building at the corner of Holton and Concordia will soon be jumping with new life! The former Kohl’s grocery store is the new site of Lena’s Food Market, a family-operated business that is known for its rich soul food selection and commitment to quality service for the central city community. The Lena’s store at 2322 W. Oak St. is also located in a former Kohl’s building. It has a predominantly African-American customer base, and provides distinct ethnic foods that cannot be found at major supermarket chains. Lena’s has always been a family affair. Lena’s boasts three generations of customers and employees. Brothers Gregory, Derrick, and Anthony operate the business together, but it all began with their parents, Bezelee and Lena. In 1960, they opened a store in the Harambee neighborhood at 3rd Street and North Avenue. “We try to nurture and provide for our family and customers,” said Gregory. “We have a very strong family atmosphere and would like to bring that to Riverwest.” The Martins expect to have 60-70 employees at the Holton Street location, both full and part-time. Gregory is considering removing the black bars from the glass front of the building, which has been vacant since 1999 when Kohl’s closed its doors. Gregory also plans to repave the parking lot, enhance the curb appeal of the location with additional landscaping, and hire an employee to work outside assisting customers and providing security. These would be welcome changes to the location, which was known among neighbors as having poor service and an undesirable appearance. The beautification of this building will positively affect the appeal of the northern end of Holton St. What’s Cooking! Co-owner Gregory Martin expects to open the store at 3334 N. Holton St. this Summer in July or August and is confident Lena’s can meet the shopping needs of its diverse neighbors. “We are open to adding what the store needs to serve the Riverwest community, and we have the resources to adequately take care of stocking other ethnic foods,” he says. The store will also be able to provide certain basics for vegetarians in Riverwest. One look at Lena’s circular/flyer and it is evident that the store is committed to offering a full line of goods at competitive prices. Produce is abundant and the deals are plenty. Customers who spend at least $40 can get a ride home in one of the store’s vans. They’ve got household needs and pet supplies, sparkling spring water and fish to fry. For those who want to throw down some oxtail stew, corn bread, and collard greens, Lena’s is the place to go. And it doesn’t look like Lena’s will have a difficult time drumming up business. Many residents near the Holton Street location are looking forward to having service once again. “I think it’s cool that they are coming in and to have a place close to shop at besides Jewel. And the building won’t be sitting empty,” says Ginger Georger, who lives on Booth Street.
by Tanya Cromartie-Twaddle