For Khiree Wanzu, a healthful, holistic approach to eating works as both a family tradition and a sensible business model.
“My father ran a health-food store, so I grew up learning about herbs and nutrition,” says Wanzu, who opened The Market Garden in June. “I was a business major at Savannah State, and I wanted to do something entrepreneurial. So this idea just made sense for several reasons.”
The Market Garden, located at 5790 Old National Highway in College Park, sells vitamins, herbs in bulk, locavore produce, meat substitutes, and smoothies from its juice bar. Wanzu also is breaking ground on a community garden, where he will rent plots to customers for a monthly fee. “I’m already selling the crops that I grow in my personal garden, and we have a waiting list for the community garden, so people are very receptive to what we’re doing,” he says.
The surrounding neighborhoods, on the south side of Atlanta, has been building an appetite for fresh groceries. “This is a food desert,” says Wanzu, who is partnering with his brother-in-law, Christopher Kendra. “There’s a Kroger not far away, but its healthy foods aren’t on the scale of what we’re trying to do. We want to make a contribution to the community and make it easier for people to take better care of themselves. If people don’t know how to grow food, we’ll teach them.”
Wanzu acquired a loan through the Healthy Food Finance Initiative, an ACE program that provides direct investments and guidance for retail businesses to increase access to nutritious fare in low-income areas. For reasons of supply, budgeting, and transportation, residents of food deserts tend to rely on fast, highly processed, empty-calorie foods. Studies show that nearly two million Georgians, including about 500,000 children, lack access to fresh foods.
“My father, who is retired, will be helping out, too, so we’re going for a mom-and-pop feel,” Wanzu says. “A corner store where everything is good for you. We’re excited about this, and the community is, too.”