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New Grocery Store Offers ‘Oasis in a Food Desert’

Photo by Heather Ziegler – Richard Niehaus stands next to the plaque that denotes the history of the grocery store operated by his family.

WHEELING — When Judith Minder was 14, she worked behind the meat counter of the Niehaus Grocery store, a longtime business in South Wheeling. In the decades that followed, much of South Wheeling’s landscape changed, including the end of the grocery store.

Fast forward to 2020 and the South Wheeling Grocery has been resurrected from the past and is in the hands of Judith’s daughter, Lisa Minder.

Minder is the owner of the grocery store at 3801 Jacob St., which has been fully renovated by landlord Richard Niehaus. The Niehaus name had been associated with the grocery business since 1850 when J. Niehaus located in South Wheeling. That was followed by A. Niehaus Grocery and Meats in 1922, and the last store operated by J.K. Niehaus in 1952. The latter store closed up shop in 1982 and the building went on to house various businesses including a thrift shop.

Today, the store is a clean, bright work in progress as Minder fills shelves, coolers and freezers with items to serve eager customers.

This endeavor into the retail business is not new to Minder who lived in China for 23 years.

She is modeling the store after similar shops in China where the basic needs of customers could be found among the shelves.

Currently the store offers cereal to frozen waffles, candy to snacks, milk, eggs, bread, vegetables and more. Minder plans to expand the offerings by installing a deli counter and providing more fresh foods. A coffee station is in the works with Yorkville Bakery pastries being delivered fresh several days a week.

“This wouldn’t be possible without my amazing landlord, Richard. He is helping me every step of the way. I couldn’t ask for a better landlord,” Minder said.

Niehaus is proud of the legacy his family name carried in South Wheeling for generations and it shows in the pride he has taken with restoring the building where his relatives worked and lived. He assists Minder with planning the setup of the store and assuring it is up to health codes. He also installed a new sidewalk that adds to the fresh look of the building.

Minder’s goal is to provide “an oasis in a food desert.” She noted that the nearest food stores are Dugger’s Market on 29th Street and the Dollar General in Benwood. And with two apartment complexes under construction just steps from the South Wheeling Grocery, Minder is looking forward to serving the growing needs of her customers.

“I want to get to know my neighbors and be able to provide that personal customer service,” Minder said. “Right now we are growing our stock.”

As she gets to know her customers, Minder said she will offer online orders that can be picked up or delivered, once she gets to know her customers.

Minder has repurposed several pieces of furniture used in the store, including a bread rack original to the store. She has employed four workers including Brandy Jaeger who resides in the neighborhood. The store accepts EBT and SNAP.

Store hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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