It's been a longtime coming. For the first time in decades, Rockford's southwest side has a full service grocery store. Years of work by city leaders and residents finally came together Thursday.
Eager Rockford residents lined up to accept the invitation from the co-owner of Gray Foods. Many like Ella Marshall will not miss driving several miles to do their shopping.
“We've been waiting for this for over 30 years. So we've finally got a nice, convenient store over here. We haven't had anything like this since eagles burned down. I think this is going to be really nice," says Marshall.
While a new grocery store doesn't seem like a big deal in other parts of the city, city leaders say these residents have been neglected too long.
"We all know this is a very special day because the citizens. The fifth ward are going to be able have some of the same quality of services that exist throughout this great city," Bell explains.
Hopes are high that this new store will give the struggling southwest neighborhood a much-needed economic push.
"This is the first in what we see as a long line of very great successes to happen in this part of our community and that's why were so excited to be here today," says Mayor Scott.
Some statistics show that nearly 50 percent of all area residents need to shop here to keep the store in operation. So while there's excitement that the store is open, residents will have to shop to keep it in business.
“This gray food market is much more than a grocery store to these residents and they plan to keep in town for many years come,” states Marshall.
One hundred four people will be employed at the 32,000 square foot facility. The store has a bakery, fish market, salad bar and ethnic food aisle. The project was a source of controversy when city leaders forced a local Mexican grocer to close its door, but residents today say there are still other ethnic grocers in the area and the IGA offers more variety.