a view of the outside of the market in north richmond

In North Richmond, little market spells ‘community’

on January 20, 2011

Dozens of bulletholes pockmark the façade of Lucky Braimah’s market, which sits on the potholed corner of Market and Fifth Streets. But that doesn’t discourage the affable Nigerian.

“The community, it is improving,” Braimah said, his lumbering accent still thick with his native country. “It is something I love to see.”

Braimah opened his store about seven years ago, just as the last of the restaurants and most other businesses were leaving North Richmond. The community today is one of the poorest and most violent in California. A mile-square grid of public housing projects and old homes, North Richmond today remains unincorporated county land, having been passed over several times over the decades during expansions by the City of Richmond.

It was once the home of several famous blues clubs – the mention of the name of one joint, Minnie Lou’s, still brings smiles to old-timers’ faces. Restaurants were also plentiful, but today the area has just two corner grocers and a liquor store.

“There is no money here, and so the people either pay more or have to go farther for their groceries,” Braimah said, noting that his store’s small size means he can’t get bulk prices from suppliers.

But at least three times per week, Braimah pulls an all-day shift, chatting with his customers and making sandwiches and other snacks. He resists the temptation to sell alcohol, despite its promise of increased profits.

Customers say Braimah’s store is one of the few bright spots in the neighborhood.

“It’s a good thing, a black-owned business right here,” said Cedric Kelley, 34, who stops by almost daily to for cold-cut sandwiches. “You don’t see that too often.”

This radio report, which you can listen to by clicking the arrow above to the right, was first broadcast in December on Crosscurrents from KALW News. It is the second in a three-part series exploring the North Richmond community.

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