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Grocery store in Seattle's Central District battles pandemic and gentrification

A grocery store owner struggling due to the pandemic said his family has resisted offers to sell, not wanting to contribute to more gentrification.

SEATTLE — For three decades, the corner store on 28th Avenue and Jackson Street in Seattle's Central District has been part of Sami Abrera’s family.

“My parents are immigrants from Eritrea, and they came here and worked for several years. Multiple jobs, hardworking people, and saved up the whole life savings purchase the store,” he said.

Abrera is the store's current owner. However, the store is struggling to stay afloat.

He started a GoFundMe to help raise money for needed upgrades to his shop as it struggles with fewer customers due to the coronavirus.

“We need some electrical work done. I have a kitchen back there that I want to remodel, and you know get new equipment in there,” he said.

Outside of his store, Abrera has another vision of his store becoming a community resource, offering free produce to anyone who needs it.

“We're giving out free produce from Nurturing Roots Farms. It’s a Black-owned owned farm, and they're providing me with this wonderful produce. So we just want to give back to the community as best we can, giving them healthy options,” he said.

One neighbor said his efforts are vital to the community.

“The [grocery store] Red Apple on 23rd and Jackson got destroyed. So people in this area are not allowed to get or, it makes it harder for people to get culturally appropriate food. So for him being here, giving out free produce... It's a way to give back to the community, you know, during these hard times, especially during COVID, people are losing their jobs for getting evicted. This is my thought was space for the black community to be here,” Ferguson said.

Abrera said his family has resisted offers to sell, not wanting to contribute to more gentrification.

“We want to stay here. We don't want to be part of that. We want to stay there. And we want to continue to stay here for people. We do not want to get kids out of what we built for so long what my parents built for so long we don't want anyone to take that from us,” he said.