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COVID-19 reviving mom and pop grocery stores in Milwaukee neighborhood

Posted at 3:38 PM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 18:59:00-04

MILWAUKEE -- — During the COVID-19 health crisis, a consumer trend seems to be starting on the near west side of Milwaukee. People are getting their groceries from mom and pop supermarkets or convenience stores, and not as much at the big chain stores.

Take, for example, Kilbourn Supermarket, at 27th and Kilbourn. The small grocery store has served Milwaukee's near west side for 20 years. During this pandemic, the business hasn't suffered. If anything, it's changed in a good way.

"There's definitely been an increase, I can say ten to fifteen percent newer faces, I would say," said Manpreet Singh. His family owns Kilbourn Supermarket.

Singh believes customers are searching for safer ways to buy groceries and it's more convenient to stay in town.

"In the location that we're in, a lot of our customers use public transportation to get to the bigger chain stores because the buses go straight down to these, and then with the public transportation having a limit of ten riders at a time, it makes it difficult," Singh continued.

Keith Stanley is the executive director of the non-profit Near West Side Partners, which focuses on improving businesses in the area. A few blocks from Kilbourn Supermarket, Stanley says a small gas station, Hometown, is seeing more and more customers ask for fresh fruit and potatoes.

"The trend that we're seeing is that many of our local residents, homeowners, renters, are shopping local," Stanley said.

And over at Mo's Food Market, besides bok choy and cabbage, customers are buying milk, butter, and eggs.

COVID-19 has provided an unexpected revival for these mom and pop shops.

Some of the hundreds of businesses in the near west side district are still struggling. Stanley's group has worked with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation and JP Morgan Chase with a funding grant called Brew City Match.

"These funds allow us to cover the cost of either payroll or rent for some of our businesses and we're been able to help about ten businesses in that process," Stanley said.

"We also support a number of our businesses with the COVID-19 training, making sure posters are up making sure decals are on the ground, helping with social distancing."

"You never know you need community until you need it," said Stanley.

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