Crain’s Detroit Business
July 13, 2022
A nurse is transforming one Detroit block into a district of business opportunity.
Sonya Greene’s redevelopment project, called The Shift, will feature a fresh food market, barbershop, hair salon, four-unit newly renovated apartment complex, and nonprofit office space.
Greene, 53, a registered nurse of 27 years and Detroit resident of more than 30 years, said Linwood Fresh Market, an 1,800-square-foot property at 12752 Linwood St., is slated to open in late August, along with the barbershop and one or two of the apartments. Greene will manage the market and rent out the remaining spaces. She said she envisions her Linwood master plan to serve as a stepping stool for local entrepreneurs.
“This development is about economic empowerment,” Greene said.
The market will offer fresh produce, healthy ready-made meals, and Michigan-made grocery products. It will also feature an exterior walk-up counter where customers can order smoothies and juices.
Greene bought the market space in December 2017 from her late aunt, Juanita Fuller, another registered nurse who inspired Greene’s career trajectory, the businesswoman said.
Her aunt’s late husband, Elmer Fuller, owned and operated a barbershop down the street for nearly 40 years. The space is remodeled and ready to reopen, Greene said, and she is interviewing a few barber college students interested in renting out the space.
“I really wanted the whole development to open at one time, but my pocket dictated something else,” Greene said.
Greene said she has invested about $175,000-$200,000 in her business from her 401(k) savings without receiving any loans or grants.
“I’m a one-woman show,” she said.
Transitioning from her role in the medical field to entrepreneurship has meant wearing many hats, Greene said, but she’s optimistic about the business’ future.
When Greene purchased the building in 2017, she said she didn’t have an exact vision for what she wanted the space to look like but knew she wanted to provide healthy food to her community.
“Being a registered nurse for 27 years, I’ve always seen how poor eating and bad food choices have really hurt a lot of people,” Greene said.
During her years as an RN, Greene witnessed young patients on multiple medications for high blood pressure, diabetes, and other health issues that might have been prevented or slowed by investing in a healthier lifestyle, Greene said. This was especially apparent in areas where health education was limited, and healthy food options weren’t provided.
“We have a lot of people who want to eat better but just don’t know the types of food that would do their body good,” Greene said.
Alongside the fresh food market, Greene is working to provide another part of the healthy lifestyle equation through her nonprofit, Inua Organization, for which she is establishing an office space in her development project. Inua provides local health and wellness education and workforce development.
“I think anyone, given the tools that they need, can be successful,” Greene said.
Greene moved from Columbia, S.C., to Detroit in 1990. She put herself through college twice, receiving her associate degree from Oakland Community College and later a bachelor of science in nursing from Eastern Michigan University with cum laude honors, while living around the corner from her future business space at Pasadena and Dexter.
“The energy and the enthusiasm from the community has really touched me in a way that I know I’m doing the right thing,” Greene said. “I look forward to transforming this area and being a help, a much needed help.