Wendell Pierce welcomes the first customers inside his 25,000 square-foot store.
Wendell Pierce, best known for his roles on “The Wire” and “Treme” is now launching a chain of grocery and convenience stores in places where fresh food can be hard to find. As a boy, Pierce dreamed of leaving his hometown one day for the world stage. Today, the veteran actor with global credits has returned on a mission: rebuilding neighborhoods, brick by brick, aisle after aisle.
After Hurricane Katrina devastated this city in 2005, Pierce seized an opportunity to help his childhood neighborhood — Pontchartrain Park, an historic enclave for middle-class blacks — get back on its feet. He started the nonprofit Pontchartrain Park Community Development Corp. with a goal of replacing hundreds of flood-ravaged, 1950s-era houses with new homes. Now, the next item in his recovery recipe is a long-missing ingredient.
Pierce, 50, and his partners are investing big in something seemingly so small: convenient access to a grocery store. They have launched a chain of convenience stores, Sterling Express, and a full-service grocery store, called Sterling Farms, the latter just unveiled in what is often described as a “food desert,” a neighborhood where residents must travel more than a mile to a store selling fresh food. According to 2011 data, 19 percent of all Orleans Parish households have no access to a vehicle.