Brady Faith Center to open grocery store on near-southwest side
By Tom Maguire | Associate editor
First was the “big jump”; now comes the great revival.
Five years ago the Brady Faith Center opened the Brady Farm on 5.8 acres in the Valley area of Syracuse. Coming up in the first quarter of 2021, Brady Market will open at the site of a supermarket that operated on the near-southwest side of Syracuse for 98 years.
“The farm was a very big outreach and program, no question about it,” Kevin Frank, executive director of the Brady Faith Center, said. “That was the big jump for us five years ago.”
Brady Market will revive the space that formerly operated as Nojaim Bros. Supermarket, which opened in 1919 at the corner of Gifford and West streets and closed in 2017. “It was more than a grocery store,” said building owner Paul Nojaim, who is renting the space to the Brady Faith Center at what he called below-market cost.
Still remaining inside the closed store is a huge walk-in freezer, refrigeration equipment, and other implements of the grocery business such as deli equipment, saws, and meat grinders that are less than four or five years old. As he gave a tour of the spacious building, Frank said: “This is much more than a market, this is holy ground.”
Bakery, catering, and more
Offered will be “healthy and affordable food,” Frank said. Planned are a meat department, bakery, catering, and to-go lunches and dinners. No alcohol or cigarettes will be sold.
“We’re going to have milk and bread and sugar and all that stuff,” he said, “but it’s not going to be a full-line supermarket. … You’ll get some of the best deals in Syracuse at our little store there on the corner of Gifford and West.”
“It’s going to be about a million dollars to get it up and running,” he said, “which includes inventory, some training of staff, and some building construction.”
Brady Market is inspired by Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, which provides hope, training, and support for people to redirect their lives; and Bargain Grocery in Utica, a service of the Compassion Coalition, which focuses on community-based giving.
The Brady Faith Center defines its mission as meeting the “spiritual, educational, and social needs of individuals and families in the Southwest Community of Syracuse.” The Brady Farm’s mission is providing “sustained nutritious foods, employment, and education that nourishes the body, mind, and spirit of our neighbors.”
Frank explained Brady Market’s mission recently to a virtual audience at the faith center’s fundraising 2020 God Love Ya Awards Celebration:
Brady’s building blocks
“Our building blocks to building a healing community are threefold: Hope, Health. and Healing. …
“Standing inside Hope means we are creating a marketplace with paying jobs on day one for primarily young people in our community as a first job or second chance. Hope is coordinating a 12- to 18-month job-training program that will lead to a career.
“Standing inside Health means we are creating a marketplace with 8,000 square feet of access to healthy and affordable food, some of which will come from our 5.8-acre Brady Farm which is just over two miles away. …
“Standing inside Healing means creating a marketplace where on the other side of the refrigerated units and under the same roof we are partnering with Dr. Michael Gilbert and his nonprofit It’s All About Childhood & Family to increase social connections and supports for all of our employees. This means every employee has access to case management, mentors, therapy, and learning circles within a faith-based and spiritual community.”
Learning circles, he said, may focus on topics related to anger management, substance abuse, meditation, and parenting. The Brady Market operation, he said, will be “respectful of all people.”
Brady Market’s food will come from the Brady Farm and other farms and food distributors. In the center of the 8,000-square-foot space will be a bargain area that will include perfectly good food originally intended for another destination.
“I think it’s genius,” Nojaim said of the Brady Market plan. He is also renting 9,000 square feet in the same building for the market’s counseling and educational component. In a separate part of the building, Nojaim rents 7,000 square feet to the Onondaga County Health Department’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.
“This is a model that does bring back the food access,” Nojaim said of Brady Market, “but it also brings something really unique with it in that it’s a unique training program.”
Paul’s brother Dan Nojaim said the grocery business started with their grandfather and continued with their father. Dan served as a manager and brother Richard still runs the Nojaim operation in Marcellus. The family also had a store in Lakeland for about 20 years.
The young people that Brady Market hires, Dan said, will “grow their own future and take this wherever they want it to go for their own neighborhood. … This is their program.”
Helping the workers
Through his nonprofit, It’s About Childhood & Family, Inc., Dr. Gilbert, a school psychologist for the Syracuse City School District, will provide the therapeutic piece of Brady Market — the case management, counseling, mentorship, educational classes, and expressive-arts programming for the workers. He said classes may focus on job-readiness skills, financial literacy, and communication skills; expressive-arts instruction may include pottery, music, dance, photography, painting, and poetry.
“I’m blessed to be part of it and so excited about where it’s going to go,” he said of Brady Market.
Kelsie Montaque, who has a master’s degree in social work from Syracuse University and is currently a consultant for Brady Market, will become its fulltime director of operations in January.
“Our goal,” she said, “is to have individuals be employed by the store …, and then on top of gaining on-the-job training, they’re also able to participate in therapeutic services” along with educational, nutritional, and exercise programming.
“So our whole goal,” she added, “is about that holistic person … and making them better,” not just more employable, “but healing the whole person and making them better for themselves.”
Brady Market, she said, “goes beyond the average supermarket, and it’s great because within that community, there is need for resources, so here we have it within the supermarket.”
“Any dollar spent at the store is returned back to the community through programs and outreaches,” Frank said.
He said the Brady Market project is kicking off with 160 fully prepared Thanksgiving meals “to our neighbors on Thanksgiving Day. … It’ll be a nutritious and celebratory Thanksgiving dinner for people who might not be able to provide that for themselves. No. 2, it lets people know that we’re coming into Gifford Street and West Street …, and we’re going to be your neighbor grocery store.
“We’re going to employ your youths and young adults, and we’re going to help increase social connections and healing support in our community. … We’re really going to work at community health and wellness together.”
The Brady Faith Center is asking contributors to purchase the Thanksgiving meal for somebody else for $150, “and any profit that we make would go into providing the Christmas meal,” Frank said.
To contribute to the meal, go to bradyfaithcenter.org, hit the Donate Today button, and pay by credit card; or write a check to the Brady Faith Center, 404 South Ave., Syracuse, New York, 13204; on the memo line write “Thanksgiving Dinner.”
To contribute to phase 1 of Brady Market, contact Frank at the Brady Faith Center’s work number,
Frank confirmed that Brady Market is the Brady Faith Center’s grandest initiative yet. Bigger even than the high tunnels at Brady Farm?
“This is Brady-big,” he said.