The Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York, where 10 people were murdered on Saturday May 14, will remain closed until additional notice. An 18-year-old white man was charged with killing 10 people and injuring three other people at the grocery store according to law enforcement officials, who described the attack as racially motivated. Most the people who were shot were black.
In a city shaped by decades of segregation (pdf), this grocery store is more than just a place to stock up on milk, cereal, chicken and rice, it’s an important landmark for the black community.
The Tops Friendly Market on Jefferson Avenue is where friends and relatives reunite. The grocery store is a place where shoppers cash in their coins, buy a money order, or get medicine from the pharmacy. Customers can also pay their utility bills at the store, accessible by bus service. It’s a place where community groups pick up refreshments for local meetings, Takiyah Nur Amin, a former Buffalo resident, said by email. Ameen, a founder of a consulting firm, was born and raised in Buffalo, and still has family there. She caught on Twitter to share his thoughts with another poster who tweeted about what the market meant to the community.
The grocery store, located in New York’s second-largest city, operates in a long-standing black community that is mostly working-class and poor, Amin said. The store is on the east side of main street, where 85% of Buffalo residents who identify as black live. In 2019, the region’s poverty rate hovered around 30% and the median household income was $39,677. according to at Census Reporter, a site that tracks US census data. “The grocery store is an essential resource because there have not always been accessible services on this side of town,” she writes.
The Jefferson Avenue location opened in 2003 after residents clamored for a full-service grocery store in the neighborhood, once considered a food desert, for more than a decade The Buffalo News reported.
The important role of local grocers
Small and medium-sized grocers can personalize their products and meet the community in ways big chains can’t, said Kennedy Smith, senior fellow at the Institute for Local Reliance, a think tank that advocates for small businesses. businesses. Tops has 150 stores and five franchise stores and is located in New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont.
The local grocery store also plays the role of communicating public nutrition to the community, providing jobs and making the neighborhood more stable. “They play an extremely important role in daily life,” Smith said.
“What pains me is that this community that has been trying to have the resources it has – we didn’t have this store until around 2003 – has been targeted,” Amin wrote. “People who work, scrape and save for all they have, go about their business and encounter violence. Taking from people who have so little is particularly awful.
Buffalo, New York is shaped by racial segregation
Buffalo, New York, a Rust Belt city that boomed in the age of manufacturing, is a very segregated (pdf) metropolitan area. Whites are overrepresented in the suburbs and people of color are overrepresented in the city of Buffalo due to a history of zoning laws, redlining and other forms of housing discrimination that have prevented minorities from s settle in the white neighborhoods.
In 2019, 35% of black residents in the Buffalo metro area lived in predominantly black neighborhoods, while 17% of black Americans live in majority black census tracts, according to Wall Street 24/7, a financial news and commentary site. Where you live plays an important role in your access to good jobs, quality schools and healthy food.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul appealed to the store reopen. Aware of the role he plays in the neighborhood, Tops said he provides free bus services to and from nearby Tops locations. In Buffalo, people of color are the first users of public transport (pdf). Other organizations have stepped in to help, including Buffalo Community Fridge, which has begun distributing food to those in need in the Jefferson Avenue community and is accepting food donations.