It’s been a decade since anyone in the Allied Drive neighborhood could walk to a local grocery store. But that changed on Monday.
Joe and Mariam Maldonado’s dream of opening a grocery store in Allied Drive has been a long time coming. They moved to the neighborhood six years ago. Joe says that from the beginning, they’ve wanted a grocery store.
Maldonado says, “We love our neighborhood, it’s very diverse. We’ve got people from different walks of life. The only thing that was missing was somewhere walkable to go get food, especially for some of our neighbors who don’t have vehicles.”
So the Maldonados took on the charge of building that grocery store. Luna’s Groceries opened up this week on Red Arrowhead Trail, right off Verona road by the Fast Forward rollerblading rink, but it hasn’t always been smooth sailing.
But addition to the renovations the Maldonados needed to make to turn what was once pay-day loan joint into a grocery store, they also had a few surprises. They had to remove asbestos under the floor and repair damage from last summer’s flooding.
They received a $150,000 grant grant from the city and raised $47,000 in a kickstarter campaign to get started.
“There have been a lot of folks really grinding to make this happen, so there’s definitely been a need. We had a lot of engagements with the community, and people were really supportive of our idea. So we’ve gotten a lot of love,” says Maldonado.
Mariam was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, and her family also ran a grocery store there.
In addition to a full time butcher, the Maldonados want to focus on stocking diverse options at their store. The neighborhood is one of the most diverse in Dane County, both racially and socio-economically.
According to Maldonado, “our motto is ‘your corner store.’ We really don’t want this just to be a place where people get food, but a place where there’s community built. A place where people can see a reflection of themselves in the food they see in the store. As well as in the people that they see in the store. So we want this to be a place where everybody can come get their food, everybody can feel like it’s a good, safe healthy and fun place to be.”
And Maldonado says they’ve seen a steady stream of customers since they opened on Monday, despite the polar vortex. He says they’ve been sharing what they’ve been cooking with their ingredients from Luna’s on the store’s Facebook page.
“It looks like it’s been a lot of comfort food… soups, fajitas, ” says Maldonado.
In addition to the full time butcher, they’ve hired five other staff — including clerks and a manager.