Entrepreneurs turn a 6,000 square foot vacant building into a neighborhood asset providing healthy food that also meets the needs and tastes of a culturally diverse population.
Africana Villa—a food market, West African restaurant (the first in the city of Springfield), and clothing store—opened its doors earlier this month at the corner of Locust and Dickinson streets in Springfield.
When Roseline and Obioma Chiuwa first reached out to FCCDC in the spring of 2022, it seemed like a logical progression to grow their Afro-Caribbean food buying “club” to a retail storefront in the Springfield neighborhood they called home. When staff first visited the vacant building on Locust Street, it appeared to need a significant amount of work—a difficult undertaking. This was made even clearer when Roseline and Obi spoke about their full-time jobs, ongoing educational pursuits, raising a family with young children, and other community involvement.
The FCCDC was able to use Massachusetts Food Trust Program low-interest loan funds to assist in their dream of creating a grocery store in a neighborhood served primarily by convenience stores. Additionally, Roseline has carved out a corner of the grocery store for some clothing and fashion items. A related West African restaurant, Africana Bowl, opened in the adjacent storefront in the building they purchased and rehabilitated for the past year and a half. There have been a few surprises along the way, but one thing Roseline and Obioma have is the ability to roll with the surprises, consider the options, and move ahead—all with a big smile and determination to see this project through.
Africana Villa held its grand opening on October 7, a day proclaimed “Africana Villa Day” by Mayor Domenic Sarno, who was at the ribbon cutting. The project turned a 6,000 square foot vacant building into a neighborhood asset providing healthy food that also meets the needs and tastes of a culturally diverse population.
“Thank you City of Springfield and FCCDC for your support and financial assistance to Africana Villa,” Roseline said at the opening. “Your belief in our vision is not only appreciated, it is a testament to the power of diversity and inclusion in shaping a brighter future for African Descent Americans. Thank you for standing with us.”
We are very excited about this addition to the city of Springfield and wish the Chiuwas every success imaginable as their venture serves the people of Springfield and beyond. Do stop in to check out the store and restaurant when you are in the area!