published Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Southside Market owner plans voter registration drive in Chattanooga

Mahmood Abdullah poses in the aisles of his new minimart Wednesday in the Alton Park neighborhood.
Mahmood Abdullah poses in the aisles of his new minimart Wednesday in the Alton Park neighborhood.
Photo by Jake Daniels.

If You Go

What: Southside Market grand opening and voter registration drive for the March city election

When: 3 to 6 p.m. Nov. 24

Where: 202 W. 38th St.

A decade-old dream was manifested this month when 64-year old Mahmood Abdullah opened the Southside Market.

It is the third minimart to open on West 38th Street, but if all goes according to plan, the Southside Market will get fresh produce and meat before the end of the year to become the community's only full-service grocery store.

It was 2001 when Abdullah hung the Southside Grocery's sign in front of the building. He had planned to start operating the same week, but the business never opened because he couldn't afford to meet building code standards.

This year he gathered the money to get the building up to code and to open the store. For all this time, the desire to be a positive force in his community kept him motivated, he said.

His plan is to hire as many people from the community as business will allow. He has hired two so far.

And he plans to hold a voter registration drive during the store's grand opening on Nov. 24.

He and longtime business owner J.T. McDaniel leaned against a display counter last week while discussing economics in the black community.

There is no reason why there can't be a black-owned grocery chain, said McDaniel. The problem is people only patronize the smaller stores when they are going for beer, cigarettes and a few grocery items, he said.

When they make larger purchases, they leave the community for the larger grocery chains, he said.

Taking money to outside stores delays the possibility of job creation within the community, Abdullah said.

"Nobody is going to do anything for us," he said. "Our people will continue to fall dead if we don't create jobs for ourselves."

The Southside Market already is stocked with canned goods, toiletries, household cleaning supplies, baby products, jewelry and art.

On a day last week, Shanita Toney came in for juice and Benadryl.

The store attendant, Charles Fuller, sold her the drink and told her he would make sure the store has Benadryl in stock the next time she comes.

She said she liked the store because it is in walking distance of her home in the Villages at Alton Park and the prices are less expensive than at some other stores.

The Southside Market is hosting its grand opening less than two months after Moe Saleh opened the One Stop Shop in October in the Westside. The One-Stop-Shop is the only convenience store in the Westside.

Saleh expects to get produce this month and a butcher by the end of the year, he said Friday.

In Alton Park, Abdullah also wants to open an unused portion of the store and turn it into a restaurant.

"We've got killings and kids who need a job," he said. "But if we took control of the money in our community, look at what we can do."

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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