‘Problem’ Xenia Avenue business could become ‘community asset’

A former convenience store in the Twin Towers neighborhood that community leaders say was a “crime magnet” could become a much-needed source of healthy and affordable food.

The East End Neighborhood Development Corp. plans to buy and rehab the Convenient Plus Food Mart at 405 Xenia Ave., which closed last year.

Some ideas for the space include a grocery store with locally grown food, a diner-type lunch counter or a restaurant with rotating chefs and menu items.

“This is going to be a big community project,” said Jan Lepore-Jentleson, executive director of East End Community Services.

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The store at 405 Xenia Ave. was originally built as a 7-Eleven and later became a UDF.

The store, which is roughly 3,000 square feet, eventually became an independent business that changed operators multiple times. Most recently, the property was Convenient Plus Food Mart.

After the food mart closed last year, Jim Barrett and Sandy Todd, who live next door, purchased the property for $60,000.

Barrett and Todd plan to sell the building to East End Neighborhood Development Corp. at a discounted price. They bought the building primarily to prevent it from falling into the hands of an irresponsible operator.

East End development will raise funds to acquire and renovate the property, and volunteers will be needed to help clean and fix it up, Lepore-Jentleson said.

The store for years was a “magnet” for outside drug sales and had issues with loitering, outdated food and cleanliness and was the scene of some serious crimes, including a shootout out front, Lepore-Jentleson said.

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The store was the subject of investigations into food stamp card fraud, illegal liquor sales, sales of spoiled foods and the store extended credit to some customers that required they pay back double what they received in goods, she said.

There were drug deals in front of the business, and some people congregated in front of the store and intimidated passers-by, she said.

The store had public health legal orders against it for numerous health and safety code violations inside the building, she said.

With the community’s help, the store can become an asset once again after years of being detrimental to the neighborhood’s health and safety, she said.

This month, dozens of residents shared feedback about what they’d like to see at the property.

One of the most popular ideas was to open a grocery store that highlights or incorporates the food being grown nearby by Mission of Mary Cooperative and Dayton Urban Grown Farm.

Other community members liked the idea of creating a diner-type lunch counter that serves hot food, soup, salad, breakfast, coffee and some sweet treats.

Another well-received idea was to have a lunch counter-type space that allowed various restaurants or chefs to have a regular satellite space. The space could have multicultural offerings, like Mexican food one day and Indian the next.

East End hopes to work with Gem City Market and others to develop a good business plan, Lepore-Jentleson said.

The hope is to make the building a food hub of some type.

The neighborhood has food access issues since it is home to many low-income residents who don’t have reliable transportation to get to Wayne Avenue and Smithville Road, which have grocery stores and other food options, Barrett said.

Barrett said the stores are a long walk and bus routes are tricky, so it can take a long time to get to either of those popular corridors.

Years ago, Barrett said, a retail analyst studied Xenia Avenue and the surrounding area and concluded food operations were the only type of business that could economically succeed.

The analysis, he said, also concluded any new operation would have to be bring something different than the food options that already exists on Wayne Avenue and Smithville Road.

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