Former Visions strip club site to be turned into community grocery store

MADISON, Wis. — Two community entrepreneurs are hoping to revitalize a portion of East Washington Avenue that has been notorious for crime and controversy over the last several years.

Kaba Bah and Jerreh Kujabi immigrated to the United States from West Africa more than 20 years ago with hopes of pursuing their own American Dream. Both attended the same high school in Gambia before immigrating to Madison in 1998.

Kujabi, a network engineer for Sun Prairie Schools, and Bah, a researcher for UW’s Space Science and Engineering Center, just sealed the deal on purchasing the former Visions strip club location with plans to open as a community grocery store by the end of the year.

“We think it will bring a lot of exciting changes and it will improve the community,” Bah said. “This particular area we are in needs something like this to uplift it.”

The $1.27 million project was made possible through the help of two City grants. Mayor Satya Rhodes Conway said Bah and Kujabi have been working with the City for the past two years to make their dream a reality.

“It’s the perfect example of a project that bridges the city’s commitment to increasing healthy and culturally relevant food access and our commitment to investing in BIPOC women and veteran entrepreneurs,” Rhodes-Conway said.

Through the City’s Healthy Retail Access Program and the Commercial Ownership Assistance Program, which Madison’s City Council created last July to help increase business ownership among people of color, the two were able to secure $320,000 in grant money to start up their grocery store, Go-oh.

“We were looking at the KFC building further down from here. Unfortunately that fell through. We’ve looked at the Salvation Army building,” Bah said. “We’ve looked at other parts of the city and this is the one we ended up picking.”

Kujabi said the area the building is located is considered a food desert. He said he is excited to be a part of the solution to help those living in the area gain access to healthy food.

“Most of the folks that live in the neighborhood are low income,” Kujabi said. “Transportation is a challenge. So they’re really excited about having a grocery store in the neighborhood they can walk to and not have to drive.”

Bah said the handful of residents living above the main floor in the building will remain there when the grocery store is built.

Two two business owners say they will sell traditional grocery store foods as well as West African foods to cater to the growing immigrant and minority populations.

“In this area there’s a high population of folks from our part of the world,” Kujabi said. “We are looking to cater to specialty foods they would not normally find in traditional grocery stores.”

The two plan to have a grand opening sometime in November.