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The Gem City Market

Partnering with Neighbors to Heighten Food Access and Develop Jobs.

When people were left without access to fresh meats and produce in their neighborhood following the closure of grocery stores, residents decided to open their own: The Gem City Market. 

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE) attorneys were there to help.

The majority of West Dayton is defined as a food desert with low access to fresh and healthy food. When neighbors proposed the idea of starting their own grocery store, attorneys from ABLE—a nonprofit law firm—assumed key roles with community members to make their vision a reality. The attorneys have provided critical legal services such as the development of bylaws and operational agreements for the market.

The groundbreaking for the Gem City Market will be in the spring of 2019. The store is scheduled to open in 2020. It is owned by residents and supporters and it “cannot pick up and leave.” Corporations, foundations, churches, individuals and local government have financially contributed to make it possible. Many neighbors will be employed by the store.

The market is just one way that the legal aid law firms of ABLE and its partner Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc. (LAWO) serve disadvantaged people of the Dayton area. The firms protect individuals from domestic violence, elder abuse, unfair education, health care, housing and public benefits issues and uphold the legal rights of immigrants and refugees. The legal aid law firms of ABLE and LAWO have provided legal assistance to the Greater Dayton Area for more than 50 years.

The Gem City Market is an example of ways that the firms use community lawyering to work within communities to support the legal needs of residents and address disparities that they have identified with in their communities. Building on this community approach, eight neighborhoods have been identified for assistance by legal aid attorneys. Further, the firms continue to support the development of other cooperatives that are in the works to help residents become agents of change to improve their neighborhoods and living conditions.

The Gem City Market will be constructed on the 300 block of Salem Avenue.

The Market will serve Southern Dayton View, Old Dayton View, Five Oaks, Grafton Hill, McPherson, Jane Reece, University Row, Princeton Heights, Dayton View Triangle, Fairview, Mt. Vernon, Santa Clara, Riverdale, Hillcrest, and North Riverdale neighborhoods.

Matthew Currie

“The great thing about the market is that it’s designed to be and will be self-sustaining,” says Matt. “It’s a for-profit market and it’s not going to have to rely on charitable donations to survive when it’s built. When there are profits, the profits will go back to the membership.”

—Matthew Currie—


Amaha Sellassie

“I want this to be the third space where people come and eat and congregate and learn how to make healthy food and take cooking classes and have cooking contests,” says Amaha. “I want it to be a place of community pride.”

—Amaha Sellassie—


Reverend Dr. Daryl Ward

“If we are to have a just legal system, there must be a way for people who don’t have the funds to get into it,” says Rev. Ward. “If we didn’t have legal representation then the Gem City Market would have had to raise so much more money that had nothing to do with putting food in people’s mouths. Because we are able to have legal representation, it’s phenomenal!”

—Reverend Dr. Daryl Ward—


About the author

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE) is a non-profit regional law firm that provides high quality legal assistance in civil matters to help eligible low-income individuals and groups in western Ohio achieve self reliance, and equal justice and economic opportunity.