Until recently, residents of Euclid Beach Apartments and other nearby complexes lived just blocks from grocery shopping – and for those without cars, it was often a manageable walk or mobility scooter ride. Opened in 1988, the Dave’s Markets location had served Cleveland’s North Shore Collinwood and other nearby neighborhoods for 34 years. That all came to an end, however, on April 30, when the grocery store shut its doors for good. Store officials cited numerous reasons for the closure of the Collinwood location – all relating to lower revenues – while some members of the public questioned the reasons officially given by the company.
The property that Dave’s once occupied has been vacant since the closure. On September 13, according to public records, the property was purchased for $1.3 million by a company affiliated with the Simon’s Supermarket chain. No information is yet available about the buyer’s plans for the property. For now, shoppers can take a free shuttle to Dave’s Euclid location.
Free shuttle service to Dave’s Euclid location
At the request of city officials, including Ward 8 Councilman Michael Polensek, Dave’s announced it would begin free paratransit service to residents of buildings in the area to their nearest store location at Euclid’s Shore Center Plaza. The plan was formed through a committee which included representatives from Dave’s Markets, the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority, and the city of Cleveland, as well as the transportation company itself, said Shawanda King, resident coordinator for Euclid Beach Apartments and the neighboring Euclid Beach Villa. King, who worked with the committee, explained that she is happy that a solution was reached with Dave’s.
“They’ve always been very willing and cooperative to see what other options were out there to help residents to be able to get to the grocery store,” she said.
Shuttle services began on April 27. King explained that the paratransit service operates at different times and days depending on the building involved. The paratransit buses stop at Euclid Beach apartments in the morning and early afternoon on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Residents wishing to use the service write their name and number on a sign-up sheet in the management office.
Dave’s Shore Center location, a little over three and a half miles away, underwent renovations which concluded at around the same time that Dave’s Lakeshore location closed in the spring. This is not the first time Dave’s has paired closing an older store with shuttling shoppers to an upgraded or new location. In 2019, the company closed two locations in Central and Asiatown neighborhoods. Shuttle service was temporarily used to bring residents from the two neighborhoods to the grocery chain’s newest location in Midtown.
One Euclid Beach resident who uses the shuttle to Shore Center Plaza is Curtis Smalls, who rides the bus every Saturday. “It’s convenient,” says Smalls, who uses a walker, “and it’s always on time.” One aspect Smalls liked was the greater variety offered at Dave’s Shore Center location. “Over there,” he said referring to the former Dave’s across the street, “they didn’t have that much.”
Other residents were not as pleased, including Mary Jackson, who has mobility issues. “I think it’s bad, it’s terrible. It’s got me wanting to move out the neighborhood,” she said of Dave’s closure. She says when the bus comes to pick residents up from the apartments, the driver calls, but if she doesn’t get down within five minutes, the bus would leave anyway. When Jackson needs groceries, she calls her daughter to let her know what she needs.
In late August, Polensek said he’d contacted friends in the various complexes, been to several community meetings, and had received “no negative feedback.”
The problem of food access
The closure of Dave’s markets in the plaza left North Shore Collinwood without a full-service grocery store and left the area effectively a food desert, defined by the USDA as an area where a large share of residents lacks easy access to a large grocery store. Dr. Darcy Freedman, Ph.D., MPH, an environmental health science professor at Case Western Reserve University, prefers the term food apartheid, in which poorer communities and communities of color have vastly reduced access to quality, healthy food and rejects the term “food desert,” which she says doesn’t accurately describe the problem.
“This term assumes the problem is not having a grocery store rather than looking at all of the reasons why investment in grocery stores is not happening in certain communities,” she notes. Sixty-three percent of North Shore Collinwood’s residents are African American, and nearly 32% of residents live below the poverty line, according to data from The Center for Community Solutions. Besides exceptions such as the Save A Lot grocery store off Neff Rd., most food options in North Shore Collinwood, especially near apartment complexes such as Euclid Beach, are convenience and discount stores that do not carry the same varieties or quantities of nutritious foods.
Euclid Beach’s residents are mainly senior citizens, and many live with disabilities and have difficulty travelling long distances, according to resident coordinator King.
“All of my residents pretty much, that’s where they shopped.” said King, referring to the closed Dave’s location. “They were able to just hop across the street and go get whatever they needed whenever they needed because it was convenient. So, without that market there’s nowhere in the area they can just go immediately.” In addition, less than 5% of Euclid Beach Apartments’ residents have a form of transportation, according to King, who has worked at both Euclid Beach Apartments and Euclid Beach Villa for the past five years.
Making grocery shuttle service work for residents
Other cities have also used the approach of shuttling residents in disadvantaged areas to full-service grocery stores. For example, in 2015, the city of Flint’s Mass Transportation Authority started the “Ride to Groceries” program, in which buses ran between three stores in the area after the city suffered a string of grocery store closures. More recently, in the city of Baltimore, city officials partnered with Lyft, a ridesharing company, in 2019 to bring citizens from disadvantaged neighborhoods with limited food options to supermarkets.
Freedman said that busing attempts on a larger scale could benefit Cleveland residents who live far from access to quality foods. Dave’s shuttle operation in Collinwood is much smaller in scale compared to the efforts in Baltimore and Flint. Both cities’ services involved the cooperation of multiple grocery stores, while Dave’s operation involves a single location. In addition, Flint’s Ride to Groceries bus drives residents between grocery stores every weekday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., with shuttle service available from residents’ homes as well. In comparison, Euclid Beach residents have access to Dave’s service four times a week – morning and afternoon on two days. Any feasible mass shuttle effort, Dr. Freedman explained, would need to have vastly expanded days and times of operation to be a viable solution.
“You could have a situation where someone was planning to go grocery shopping at one of the times, but they end up having a doctor’s appointment, or their child has an emergency, and then they miss out.”
Dave’s previous shuttles in the neighborhoods of Central and Asiatown neighborhood ultimately ended, leaving shoppers to seek other options. King noted that she hadn’t received guarantees of indefinite service from Dave’s, nor had she been given any indication that the shuttle service would end. Dave’s did not respond to a request for an interview.
Upcoming meetings are planned to monitor the progress of the service. Ridership has been lower than expected, said King. The building is working to make sure residents are aware of the option, and King anticipates greater usage of the service during the winter months. She reiterated that Dave’s had been very cooperative in working to get residents to their location in Euclid. “We just hope they’re going to continue to keep their word, and go from there.”
Curtis Smalls was asked what he would do if shuttle service suddenly stopped. “Call a friend,” he answered as he headed towards the lobby, “call a friend.”