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Committee Opposes Food License for Bronzeville Dollar Tree

A Dollar Tree store is hoping to open in Milwaukee’s Bronzeville neighborhood, at North and MLK, but a Common Council committee dealt the project a setback Thursday. The licensing committee rejected its application for a food license.

For years, city leaders have been pushing to redevelop Bronzeville. It was known, until the late 1960s, as the heart of black Milwaukee. These days, the area is a food desert. Still, residents are saying no to Dollar Tree. James Hall is president of the local branch of the NAACP.

“We want fresh foods for our families, not non nutritious foods that lead to poor health,” Hall says.

Residents say they were led to believe a full-service grocery store would move into the former Walgreens. The city gave the owner of the building low interest loans to redevelop the site for a grocer. However, not too long ago, Dollar Tree put out its signs.  Residents call it bait and switch, but that was not the point of Thursday’s meeting.

At hand was whether the city should give Dollar Tree a food license. Ralph Hollmon is president and CEO of the Milwaukee Urban League.

“I am opposed to the Dollar Tree food license because the business’s presence can attract people that will harass passer byers. People that will participate in the sale of stolen goods, people that will create additional theft problems, people that will create acts of vandalism, people that will create excessive littering,” Hollmon says.

Hollmon says most importantly, he objects to the Dollar Tree because neighbors don’t want it.

While the majority of people attending the meeting spoke against, two favor the license. Eugenia Seabrooks says problems will exist no matter what business moves there.

“Whatever you put on that corner, there’s no parking around there. If they gone loiter, put some more garbage pails out there,” Seabrooks says.

Seabrooks says she likes the Dollar Tree because she’s able to buy individual items there, not multiples. She mentioned ice cream sandwiches.

For its part, the company says it’s committed to taking good care of its stores. Deborah Miller is vice president and assistant general counsel.

“The trash that we generate from our business and we generally speaking pay our landlords to pick up the trash on the outside of the buildings and in the common areas.  But whenever those issues come to us, and I support from a legal perspective an inhouse facilities team which is responsible for that, we’re on it. We take great pride in our stores, and I apologize to the extent that they’re not representing our company well,” Miller says.                                                                                                             

The store would reside in Alderwoman Milele Coggs’ district. She joined residents in their opposition but abstained from voting.

Alderman Joe Dudzik told the company it may want to consider pulling out all together because it does not have community support.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.