Freeport brothers eliminate area food desert

Published: Sep. 15, 2016 at 5:43 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- Ryan Shirley and his brother are hoping to make a big difference with a small store.

"We seen an opportunity, took advantage of that and it actually worked out because this side of town was labeled as a food desert because there's no where to really get quality groceries," says Shirley, a part owner of Lucy Deen's Parkside Grocery.

A food desert is any urban neighborhood where it's hard to buy affordable, fresh groceries. Before Lucy Deen opened on Stephenson Street, people on the north east side of Freeport had to go out of their way to feed their families.

"It was pretty much a five mile trip," says Shirley. "It doesn't sound like much for people who live in bigger towns, but for a small town, it's quite a ways to go. Especially if you don't have a vehicle, then you have to find transportation."

The store is just one of about three businesses on the block. Shirley hopes the opening of his store provides a boost to the neighborhood's economy. People who live nearby already say they're already excited about possibilities.

"We're moving back into the 21st century," says Billy Brooks. He passes the store everyday. "That's how it feels to us over here like we're finally catching up. We had been going a long time without a store over here."

"It [the store] means everything," says Shirley. "I eat, sleep, bleed Freeport so seeing the people come in here and express their gratitude for having a store on this side of town, it really just did me all the justice in the world."

Shirley says the name of the store "Lucy Deen" came from his paternal and maternal grandmothers. He says he wants to keep his prices affordable for those living in low-income housing. The store is located at 718 E. Stephenson St. in Freeport.