Gem City Market to kick off construction with block party

Organizers hope to hold ribbon-cutting celebration marking the opening of the market this time next year.

Credit: Rachel DB

Credit: Rachel DB

Organizers say the Gem City Market will take a giant leap forward this week, and local residents should get their shovels ready.

The market’s groundbreaking is set for Wednesday, Sept. 18, during a block party. The project was first announced in 2017 to help address northwest Dayton’s food insecurity issues.

Credit: courtesy of Mark Willis

Credit: courtesy of Mark Willis

Construction and demolition work will begin three or so weeks later, Kenya Baker, the market's community engagement manager, and Lela Klein, its executive director, told this news organization last Wednesday.

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“It is a momentous milestone in terms of actually seeing the manifestation of the actual store,” Baker said.

If all goes as planned, the market will have a ribbon-cutting in September 2020, Baker and Klein said.

The groundbreaking’s came as organizers announced that the market’s capital campaign goals had been met.

“Because Gem City Market is a community-driven movement, we want to make our event reflect these values. We are inviting all our supporters to stop by the block party and pick up a shovel to help us launch the building phase,” said Amaha Sellassie, president of the Gem City Market Board of Directors.



The first groundbreaking and block party celebration is set for 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 18 at the market to be located in the 300 and 400 block of Salem Avenue.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, former U.S. Ambassador Tony P. Hall, Montgomery County Commissioner Judy Dodge and other elected officials and community members will take part in a groundbreaking ceremony at 4 p.m.

A second groundbreaking ceremony for supporters and the general public will take place at 6 p.m.

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Organizers hope to take a giant group photo with community members.

“Bring a shovel, even if it is a toy shovel, or a garden spade,” Klein said.


The event will include free barbecue, a bounce house, a live DJ, health screening, a fitness demonstration from Gem Life and representatives from universities.

There will be hula-hoopers, a live performance by the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company II and Aurora Fire, a Yellow Springs-based fire dance team.

People are encouraged to bring a side dish item to share as part of a potluck meal.

“I think it is important that the community comes out and takes part in the celebration,” Baker said. “The store is for them.”


Organizers say the market — a co-op — is designed to provide health food to the area.

Baker said the market will also employ 27 people.

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“The Dayton area, particularly northwest Dayton, has seen a lot of disinvestment over the last 50 or 60 years,” Baker said.

The market is a reinvestment in the community, she said.

The co-op store will offer affordable, specialty, local and organic products as well as fresh produce and meats and “kitchen staples,” organizers have said.

It will also include meeting rooms, a teaching kitchen and community outdoor space.


In June, the market announced that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved Greater Dayton Premier Management’s request that $997,000 in unused funds from a grant be reallocated for the project.

>> Gem City Market lands nearly $1 million 

About $4 million was raised from philanthropic sources as well as state, city and county grants, Klein has said.

The market has already sold 2,200 memberships, and when combined with donated equity, Klein says they have a total of $400,000 in community contributions to the co-op.

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Organizers have high hopes for the market.

“Now the question will be ‘will the community embrace it,” Baker said.


4 to 5 p.m.| Food Distribution-Food Bank 

Families and individuals can wait in line for a mobile food pantry. Last year, the lines began to form several hours before the event began.

4 p.m. to 4:20 p.m.|  Kick off, comments and groundbreaking ceremony.

4:30 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. | Gem Life health and fitness demonstrations

6 p.m. | community groundbreaking photo-op

Community members are encouraged to bring their own shovels — including toy shovels, garden spades, etc, for a giant group photo of the community breaking ground.

6:30 p.m. |  Gem Life health and wellness demonstrations

7:15 p.m. | Live performance by DCDC II

7:30 p.m. | Aurora Fire Dancers performance

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