Gem City Market is Dayton’s first community-built, cooperative grocery store, bringing fresh food and new investment to lower Salem Avenue, an area where both have long been scarce. The co-op not only brings fresh food to an area formerly known as a food desert, but also community-building amenities, such as a community kitchen, a Five Rivers Health Centers walk-in clinic, a community room for events, and a coffeehouse. Gem City is the result of an over 6-year push from community members to bring accessible food and nutrition programs to the area. Owned and governed by its workers and community members, they offer various membership options, accommodating all income levels.
The cooperative came together successfully through community meetings, philanthropic dollars, and grassroots efforts with support of the community sold thousands of ownership memberships - mostly to locals to assist financing the store. The co-op also raised millions through loan opportunities, local, federal, state funding, and private companies.
The primary entrance is right off a plaza, encouraging activity and public use both outside and inside the market. The plaza includes outdoor display areas, food truck parking, landscaping beds to grow herbs for outdoor connection to community kitchen, and proximity to a community garden up the block. Designed with the end-user in mind, the continuous pedestrian walkways provide safe connections for community members to travel between the building, parking lots, and public sidewalks on all sides. Supplemental features include enlarged storefronts for views into most of the sales floor, a café, teaching kitchen, and community room and art vitrines are included on the South building wall.
Elevar provided consulting services focusing on planning and design specifically aimed towards the grocery/retail functions of the market. Elevar also provided engineering services, working on the refrigeration systems. With a staff that has over 75 years + of retail grocery experience collectively, Elevar is considered an expert in grocery and retail and helped with the layout and functions of the market.