In 2017, Equitas Health opened a pharmacy and medical center in the King-Lincoln District, a neighborhood lacking in health-care facilities.
Now, Equitas plans to quadruple its space in the Gateway Building on East Long Street so it can sell groceries, greeting cards, gifts and other items.
It would be the first of its kind for Equitas, a regional nonprofit organization that changed its name from the AIDS Resource Center Ohio two years ago.
Equitas will be moving from the third floor to the first, where its new 3,300-square-foot space will be next to the Lincoln Cafe.
Equitas decided to sell groceries and other items after discovering there was a demand.
“They don’t have anything like this in the neighborhood,” said Nick Saltsman, director of pharmacy services for Equitas Health.
“We kind of came up with a plan with expanded format based on feedback we got from the community,” Saltsman said.
Equitas had put together several focus groups.
“We asked them what they need out of a pharmacy,” he said. “They want bread, milk, cheese, canned fruits and vegetables, gift items.”
Joel Diaz, Equitas’ spokesman, said the store will cater to students at the Columbus College of Art and Design, as well as neighborhood residents.
Saltsman said the goal is to open the new store by the end of February.
In addition to the pharmacy, the center now offers HIV and sexually transmitted disease treatment services, plus primary care, behavioral health services and dental care. The pharmacy currently serves about 500 patients, mostly African-Americans and LGBTQ clients.
Annie Womack, who leads the Long Street Business Association, worries there won’t be enough parking in the Gateway Building’s lot.
“I don’t think it’s a good fit,” she said.
Womack said she can see a small expansion that includes beverages and healthy snacks.
“When you start including other things, you have to worry about security,” she said.
Womack said the community needs a full-fledged grocery store.
Equitas said it plans to sell healthy foods at the store. “Let’s see if healthy flies there,” she said.
Leon Lewis, who operates the Lincoln Cafe in the Gateway Building, said the new store also should help generate traffic for his restaurant, which opened six years ago.
People also might visit his place for a bite to eat while they are waiting for prescriptions, he said.
“I think it will be positive for the neighborhood,” Lewis said.