Liz Abunaw, the owner and operator of Forty Acres Fresh Market. | Courtesy Forty Acres Market

Forty Acres Fresh Market, a Black-owned grocery store that is trying to open a physical location in Austin, got a $50,000 grant that will put the business closer to moving into a brick-and-mortar store.

Liz Abunaw, the owner of Forty Acres, was one of the three Black entrepreneurs to win get the Ingredients for Success grant this year. Abunaw said she will use the grant money for marketing, employee training and inventory purchases.

In the meantime, she is waiting for the city to issue permits that will allow her to begin renovating the former Salvation Army building at 5713 W. Chicago Ave. She was reluctant to provide a timetable for the buildout, but said that her general contractor told her once permits are issued the work would take about six months.

Abunaw said she was interested in hiring carpenters, electricians and other building trade professionals from the community, so she will be holding a contractor open house at the future grocery store building on Sept. 20, 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Abunaw has owned Forty Acres since 2018. She launched the business to address food insecurity on the West Side.

The community area has an Aldi location at 5629 W. Fillmore St., a Leamington Foods store at 5467 W. Madison St. and a Food 4 Less location at 4821 W. North Ave., but much of the community doesn’t have a grocery store within walking distance.

While Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) has been pushing for a grocery store to be part of the former North/Harlem Sears site, developer Novak Construction reportedly chose to go with a healthcare tenant instead.

Ingredients for Success grants were launched as a collaboration between Ferraro Spa, the current owner of the Famous Amos cookies brand, and the National Black Chamber of Commerce.

Famous Amos was created by African-American television personality and entrepreneur Wallace “Wally” Amos. Amos got $25,000 in start-up funding to launch Famous Amos. The grant was conceived as a way to carry on his legacy to the next generation of Black entrepreneurs. According to the program website, grantees not only get the funding, but resources and support to help them use the money.

 “To be chosen out of over 3,000 applicants is pretty amazing,” Abunaw said. “I think it’s a testament to, one, following directions, and to just kind of going back and refining your story and really understanding your story, and being able to communicate it in the compelling way. It definitely feels great to be selected.”

Rachna Patel, senior director of Distinctive Brands at Ferrero, described the grants as a way to invest directly in “Black business owners who make a difference daily to the people they serve.”

“I’m thrilled to be able to leverage our platform to shine a light on these three companies and their amazing owners, as well as give back to their respective communities,” she said.

Charles H. DeBow, III, the executive director of the National Black Chamber of Commerce said the grants align with the organization’s mission “to economically empower and sustain African American communities through entrepreneurship.”

“One of the keyways of enacting our ongoing vision of Black business growth and development is achieved through programs like the Ingredients for Success initiative,” he said. “This program removes challenging barriers, and its timing couldn’t have been better since the economy of our country is still stabilizing after an unprecedented past few years.”

Abunaw said while she works to turn the former Salvation Army into a brick-and-mortar grocery store, community members can shop at her booth at Austin Town Hall City Market in the meantime. The market happens every Thursday until the end of October. Customers can also order from Forty Acres Fresh Market online.

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...