Eastside Baltimore residents hankering for healthy food choices near home take note—a fresh market has sprouted at 1900 N. Broadway that is serving up the best of the food groups.
The owners, Erich and Michelle March, hope there will be an economic benefit for the neighborhood, as well. Erich March, president of the East North Avenue Community Development Corp and owner of March Funeral Homes, grew up in the neighborhood and is familiar with the health disparities afflicting the community. He is optimistic that the new venture will serve as a health conscious incentive that will eliminate the consumption of unhealthy foods and help stimulate the local economy.
“I’m in the funeral business and I see, everyday, the health disparities between our community and the other communities and one of the main reasons is the lack of access to healthy food,” said March. “Diabetes, obesity, hypertension, all of those are direct results of poor eating habits and it’s not by desire, it’s by the lack of fresh food.”
At the recent grand opening of the market, March personally welcomed and assisted customers as he stocked the shelves.
“The cuts of meat look really fresh!” one shopper observed as she perused the deli. “It’s so clean!”
Though there are fast-food restaurants scattered throughout the area, before the Marches opened Apples & Oranges, there was no supermarket.
“My wife and I said, ‘If nobody’s going to do it, we’re going to have to do it ourselves,’” March said.
But the task was more difficult than originally thought. Three banks turned them down for financing. It took two years before they received funding from the Reinvestment Fund and Baltimore Development Corporation—both commercial investors.
Local residents who attended the March 9 grand opening welcomed the new addition to the neighborhood.
“It’s good to have something fresh in the inner city and I heard it’s Black owned, so that’s even better,” said Teneile Veal, 33.
March hopes that the market will serve as a model to potential investors. He believes that if he is successful, other businesses will follow his example.
The store has a produce section offering fresh fruits and crisp vegetables, as well as sections for fresh fish, lean meats and a full service deli. As customers walk through the aisles, they will find very few canned foods or products containing high fat and sugar content.
The focus is on healthy, organic foods at reasonable prices, March said.
“Our prices are based on the community we’re in. We’re trying to stay affordable, at the same time give customers choices of quality products,” he said.
The market has also created job opportunities for residents. March hired 21 employees, all from the local community.
“The environment the market creates is great,” said employee Tyrone Graves, 45. “The people I work with are great and Mr. and Mrs. March gave me the chance of a life time.”