Detroit grocery store destroyed in large fire on city’s east side

Fire leaves neighbors without easy access to groceries

DETROIT – A large fire destroyed an important part of a Detroit neighborhood.

Harper Food Center, located near the intersection of Harper Avenue and Newport Street, was completely destroyed in a fire Saturday night.

It was one of the only grocery stores for blocks. It was a place where the community could come together for fresh food and see their neighbors.

“I’m feeling sick and disappointed,” said resident Christopher Jones.

Finding food became much harder for Jones and his neighbors.

The first started at about 9:30 p.m. Saturday and burned until early Sunday morning. Large flames and heavy smoke poured out of the only full-service grocery store in the community.

“They just rebuilt this,” Jones said. “The other day, they just got this up and now it’s gone. Come on. Now it’s gone!? They just did this and now it’s gone. A neighborhood grocery store is nothing -- reduced to nothing.”

The loss of Harper Food Center is hard to underestimate. Detroit has long struggled with access to full-scale grocery store access. The Department of Agriculture said 19 Detroit neighborhoods are considered food deserts. Many residents don’t have access to reliable cars.

The effort to find food outside of a convenience store, liquor store or restaurant in the area around Harper Avenue and Chalmers Street is now much more difficult and the community is left with a much more difficult task without food and without answers.

“What I do want to know is are they going to rebuild and put this back?” Jones asked. “If they do, I hope it’s soon.”

There’s still no word on what started the fire nor whether the owners are hoping to rebuild.

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