Nine years after it was turned down by the building's owner, West Oakland’s Mandela Foods Cooperative is about to expand into a large corner space previously occupied by a 99 Cents Only store.
The co-op initially wanted to open in the 11,500-square-foot space across from West Oakland BART back in 2008, but landlord BRIDGE Housing leased the space to the discount retailer instead. Since then, Mandela has operated in a 2,300-square-foot location next door.
When 99 Cents Only announced in January that it would close the West Oakland store, Mandela immediately expressed interest in taking over the space.
BRIDGE spokeswoman Lyn Hikida confirmed to Hoodline that they were in the final stages of negotiating a lease with the co-op. She said they were pleased the cooperative is expanding, as it’s “an enterprise that brings multiple benefits to the community, including fresh, healthy food and job training opportunities.”
The co-op, along with its nonprofit partner, Mandela Marketplace, has long been trying to address food scarcity in West Oakland and beyond. Before it opened, besides small corner liquor stores, the closest place to get groceries was a Pak N Save in Emeryville, more than two miles away.
But for certain items, the co-op can be expensive and its selection is limited, so the 99 Cents Only store was praised by many as an important source of cheap products like toiletries, paper goods, and cleaning supplies. Despite that, it was controversial before it opened, as many residents wanted the co-op to get the space in the first place.
After news broke in January that the 99 Cents Only store was closing, a representative of the co-op said their intention was to share the space with other healthy food businesses with lower cost options.
Mandela worker-owner Adrionna Fike told the San Francisco Chronicle that the co-op will likely build kiosks inside the new store where other vendors can sell things like flowers, juices or fresh and halal meat. The store will be renamed Mandela Grocery: A Worker-Owned Co-op.
As for the old space, what might move in there remains unclear, though there are some plans in motion to keep selling fresh, healthy food there as well.