Brandi Pratt, a North Sacramento resident, perused the well-lit, freshly painted interior of Viva Supermarket on Thursday, and declared herself impressed.
“Oh my goodness, they have everything,” Pratt said, scanning stacks of fresh meat behind the glass case in the deli department. “You can’t find this kind of selection anywhere around here.”
For residents such as Pratt, Thursday was a momentous day – marking the grand opening of the first full-service grocery store in more than two decades in Del Paso Heights. The grocery store launched its soft opening nearly two weeks ago and has since experienced nothing but positive feedback, said Viva Supermarket chain owner Sean Loloee.
The Viva chain prides itself in offering a large selection of high-quality, fresh items – particularly meat and produce – at an affordable price. This is a huge step for a neighborhood considered by city officials to be a “food desert,” an area devoid of access to affordable and fresh food.
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Opening Viva Supermarket, a project nearly two years in the making, was the city’s direct response to local community members who demanded healthy, affordable grocery options closer to home, said city project manager Veronica Smith.
“One of the most tragic things that I think has happened in urban communities, where you get a high concentration of low-income and minority people, is they get really left behind from accessing basic necessities,” said Sacramento City Councilman Allen Warren, who grew up in the neighborhood and played a key role bringing the project to fruition.
“If you drive down Marysville Boulevard, you will find a lot of convenience shops,” Loloee said. “It’s not hard to get your chips or candy or soda in this neighborhood. Viva is here to provide freshness. We are a gateway to alleviating a food desert.”
The store’s location, a building surrounded by vacant lots and liquor stores near the corner of Marysville Boulevard and Grand Avenue, once housed a Market Basket store, which failed to meet city code and USDA standards as a full-service grocery store, said Daniel Savala, a field representative for Warren’s office. Many residents, such as Elsa Romo, avoided shopping at the Market Basket altogether, a result of negative experiences and rumored poor food quality.
Like many living in and near Del Paso Heights, before Viva’s opening Romo traveled more than 20 minutes to Natomas or Rio Linda to purchase groceries. Those without cars had to take public transportation, Savala said.
“People are now closer to accessing more food options, healthier food options,” Smith said. “When people have those options, they will utilize them, and that contributes to the overall health of the community.”
Mayor Kevin Johnson, who spoke at Thursday’s grand opening, said the new supermarket employs 40 people – 38 from Del Paso Heights.
Kedrian Brown is the store’s general manager and grew up in the neighborhood. “Growing up in the area, this is a truly great thing to be a part of,” he said. “When this was a Market Basket, it really wasn’t serving the community in the ways that it needed to be served.”