By Tori Mason

(CBS4) — After decades of being in a food desert, one Denver neighborhood is finally getting a full grocery store. Noir Market is expected to open this summer, creating new business opportunities and food access within Elyria Swansea.

(credit: CBS)

Shabasa Sayers grew up in the Elyria Swansea neighborhood. There wasn’t a full grocery nearby when he was a kid, and there still is not decades later.

Sayers is now a chef with his own catering business. He’s working with his daughter, Anjanet, to feed area families through their creation — Noir Market.

(credit: CBS)

“There’s a few mom and pop stores, but they can’t supply everything that we need,” Sayers said. “What about the people that don’t have transportation? No grocery store means there’s no way to get food.”

The USDA considers an area a food desert if at least 500 people, or more than 33% of the population, live more than 1 mile away from a grocery store.

According to the City of Denver, 89% of people living in Elyria Swansea are not within a 10-minute walk to a grocery store.

RELATED: Denver Human Services Index

Elyria Swansea isn’t the only food desert nearby. Denver’s Cole neighborhood has been waiting on a grocery store for years. There’s one planned for the lot at 36th Avenue and Downing Street, but it’s long been delayed.

Andrew Feinstein, CEO of EXDO Group Companies told CBS4:

“We remain vigilant in our commitment to delivering a grocery store to the Cole and Five Points Neighborhoods. Delivering a full-scale grocery store combined with multi-family housing and additional retail in the heart of the City is not without its complications, but we are optimistic that we’ll have some positive news to share with the community later this year. Unfortunately the project is not immune to the delays and dramatic cost increases caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but nevertheless our development team is doing everything possible to deliver on the vision that we shared with the community several years ago. We are grateful to the community for its patience and look forward to having something exciting to announce soon.”

Sayers says large grocery chains don’t see a place for their brands in Elyria Swansea.

“They said that they don’t have a market in the neighborhood to bring a store. How can you not have a market? Everybody has to eat?” Sayers said. “All of our money has to go to other neighborhoods when it comes to food.”

Sayers and his daughter recently closed on farmland in east Colorado where they’ll produce food for their market and create jobs in the process.

(credit: CBS)

“We want to help people gain access to food that’s not ‘food bank’ food, where it could be going bad. This is straight from the farm,” Anjanet Sayers said. “There’s a lot of people who want to volunteer and be employed in the store, which is what we’re about, helping our community.”

In addition to selling fresh, organic meat and produce, Sayers says Noir Market will also have space for a commissary kitchen and a variety of vendors.

“Let’s say someone wants to start selling candles, but they don’t have a license. We want to start giving classes where people can come in and learn how to get licensed, how to market a business,” Sayers said.

As grocery bills rise, Sayers won’t let people on the brink of starving and the edge of assistance be left behind.

“If someone makes just enough money that they can’t get food stamps, they can come and sit down and talk with us,” Sayers said. “Maybe they can come in and volunteer.”

Sayers expects to open Noir Market in June on the first floor of the Tepeyac Community Center.

He and his daughter will continue fighting for food access until then through a farmer’s market outside of Tepeyac Community Center. The outdoor market will be open this weekend from noon to 4 p.m. at 2111 48th Ave in Denver.

Tori Mason