Neighbors work together to lift their community

There is a small piece of Appalachia, snug between the Ohio River and Price Hill. If you travel west from downtown Cincinnati and follow the railroad tracks between the 8th street viaduct, you’ll find yourself in an unassuming neighborhood called Lower Price Hill. This neighborhood has a collection of fiercely loyal community members.
With Appalachian roots and a growing number of African-American and Hispanic families, Lower Price Hill is often underestimated.

Stereotypes about Lower Price Hill generally involve decay and crime, but like many other low-income neighborhoods, they don’t capture the whole picture. Lower Price Hill, or LPH, is home to several longtime residents that are dedicated to changing the narrative about their neighborhood.

From the Joe Williams Family Center to Santa Maria Community Services to Price Hill Will to Community Matters and others, the organizations that work with this LPH are just as dedicated to listening to its residents.

This neighborhood made Cincinnati the only city in the country with a human rights ordinance that explicitly protects people of Appalachian origin from discrimination, overcame six years of obstacles to land a $15.2 million affordable housing development called LPH Thrives, and has a local public school, Oyler, which went from struggling elementary/middle school to a thriving community hub.

Sixteen years ago, few children from the neighborhood graduated high school. Most dropped out after 8th grade rather than attend a high school outside LPH. Parents and community members spoke tirelessly for a high school. Today, Oyler Community Learning Center serves children 6 weeks through 12th grade. About 40–50 students graduate each year, and many go on to college.

Oyler isn’t the only example of the LPH community making their voice heard.

Most residents and staff speak affectionately of their neighbors. Resident leaders serve on the Neighborhood Action Team and Community Council. Decisions like rebuilding affordable housing, new developments, and reopening the local grocery store are all consulted on with community members, creating equitable advances, beautiful artwork, and innovative solutions.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the recent reopening of Meiser’s Grocery.

The story of Meiser’s Grocery and Deli is about more than food: It’s about the power of a community fighting for equity. Five years ago, Lower Price Hill became a food desert when Meiser’s Parkview Market closed. With the next nearest grocery store two miles or a twenty-minute bus route away, many faced obstacles in getting clean, healthy food to feed their families.

When the Neighborhood Action Team and Community Matters staff began conversations about community needs, fears, and wants, LPH residents were clear. Another food pantry or convenience store was not the solution. They needed a grocery store where they could be economic contributors to the neighborhood, get food for their families, and reliably meet their dietary needs. This seems simple, but the journey there was anything but.

Two years of dialoguing with nonprofit and city government leaders made it plain that reopening the grocery store would be a full-time job. In 2019, Your Store of The Queen City surfaced as a nonprofit with the only goal of reopening Meiser’s as a grocery store by and for the LPH community. This nonprofit was initiated by Reba Hennessey and Ashley-Devon Williamston, and LPH resident leaders have given innumerable hours to guarantee everything about the store reflects the needs and wants of their community.

When the pandemic hit, the pay-what-you-can Collective Goods farmers and makers market was quickly established to prevent hunger among the community and facilitate entrepreneurship among culinary and artistically inclined resident vendors. Local nonprofits delivered food to residents while Your Store of the Queen City got personal toiletry and other household products to community food pantries. This also kept everything the future store promised at the front of minds and hearts.

This is no ordinary grocery store — it’s a labor of love. From the inventory the store carries to the building décor to the Green Giveaways program that allows the most economically vulnerable members of the neighborhood to shop with dignity, every piece of Meiser’s Grocery is set up to serve the community.

On November 11th, 2021, Meiser’s Grocery and Deli officially reopened its doors.

All staff members are neighbors and friends of residents who shop there, and every food item and household product was chosen by the LPH community. You can order a sandwich from the deli; buy treats, art, self-care products, and more from neighborhood entrepreneurs; drink coffee with friends; and beautifully, purchase groceries and carry them less than 10 minutes to your home.

Reopening isn’t the end of the story but just the beginning for Meiser’s Grocery. Residents and trustees hope to continue community wealth building and offer tips and resources to other low-income neighborhoods struggling with food inequity.

Engagement. Loyalty. Persistence: When it comes to caring for our neighbors, Lower Price Hill is the stubborn community that could.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Miyah Byrd.

Miyah Byrd is a storyteller and advocate based in Ohio. Her work has been featured in KIIONA Magazine, Forge, Human Parts, and ThriveGlobal. She is a former educator whose interests include food insecurity, green energy, and the self-sufficiency of the Black community.