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East Buffalo Tops Store Reopens Amid Neighborhood Ambivalence

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Friday, July 15, 2022   

The Tops supermarket in Buffalo, where a racially-motivated gunman killed 10 people and injured three, has reopened today, almost two months since the incident.

Residents and community leaders on Buffalo's East Side have mixed emotions about the store's reopening. The neighborhood is considered a "food desert," with no other grocery stores close by, but residents understandably feel discomfort about shopping in the store again.

Jillian Hanesworth, Buffalo poet laureate, explained her array of feelings about the reopening.

"I feel like in a perfect world, you would have saw this Tops get torn down and replace it with, like, a memorial park, and build a new grocery store across the street," Hanesworth suggested. "But we have to grapple with reality, which is that it is opening, and a lot of people in this community do need it."

Deacon Jerome Wright of VOICE Buffalo is circulating a petition for the store to close permanently at the site, and for a memorial to the victims to be built in its place.

As part of the store's renovations following the shooting, an in-store memorial to the victims includes a poem, entitled "Water," by Hanesworth. Tops officials said the opening would be "quiet and respectful."

The East Side is still reeling in the aftermath of the shooting.

Marie Moy, director of operations for the Erie County Restorative Justice Coalition, said for many, emotions are all over the place as they continue to heal.

"I think that we're all still going through that grief cycle," Moy observed. "There's sometimes where, days we're angry; there's some days we're just sad. Sometimes we're just feeling disbelief that this has even happened."

Moy noted her organization has been a part of conversations in the community to ensure there are more resources accessible to local residents. Community leaders have also called for the grocery chain Wegmans to build a store on the East Side to help address the need for retail food options.


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