Erich March and his wife, Michele Speaks-March, were sick and tired of watching neighbors in their East Baltimore community die of preventable conditions like diabetes and hypertension. Why were these illnesses so incredibly rampant in their area? Erich and Michele, who co-own the March Funeral Homes, blamed the dearth of food-shopping options nearby. They put their heads together to brainstorm a solution to food-desert problem plaguing the Oliver, South Clifton, and Darley Park neighborhoods in the greater North Avenue neighborhood. Their light bulb of a simple, practical idea is inspiring, because they’re putting it into daily practice.
Apples & Oranges Fresh Market, the couple’s new grocery at North Avenue and Broadway, launches late next week. The fad-free goal: to offer foods that don’t undermine people’s health, according to an article in The Baltimore Sun.
“No sugary drinks, no lottery and no tobacco here,” Erich March, a Baltimore native, told Sun reporter Jacques Kelly. “I think of the old markets, places like the Belair Market on Gay Street. These are the places that gave people a sense of community.”
March — the ultimate mensch — has even secured a community space for food demonstrations and healthful cooking classes.
With healthful eating becoming a bigger trend all the time, is he worried about competition? Uh, no. Neighborhood residents who do not own a car are unable to reach healthful markets easily. Potential customers abound.
Erich first reached out to “big stores” to see if they had any interest in setting up shop close to his home. The answer, again: N-O. Finally, the Reinvestment Fund in Philly came through with some support; city and state assistance came later.
While Erich and his wife have zero retail experience, they are, as I said, experienced co-owners of the March Funeral Homes founded by his parents. Customer care should be second nature. Recently, Michele served as an intern at Eddie’s Market in Charles Village to study an appropriate model while she planned her $1.3 million market with Erich. She watched closely owner Jerry Gordon’s community interaction.
I think it’s phenomenal that these two citizens have taken it upon themselves to bring a healthful grocery store to life in a potato-chip-and-soda-stocked zone. And I bet they’ll perform beautifully. I’m stopping there soon for some red apples and Pirate’s Booty and… Anything you need?