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Neighborhood Grocery Store to Open in Former Wisconsin Strip Club

Adaptive reuse of an existing building brings grocery access to food desert
Marian Zboraj, Progressive Grocer
Gooh aims to improve food access for Madison, Wis. (Image credit: 608today)

A new independent grocery store will soon open in what was once a former strip club in Madison, Wis. 

According to, Gooh (pronounced go-oh) Grocery, owned by Samba Baldeh and Jerreh Kujabi, is the result of almost five years of planning, two years of work, and about $700,000 in city and state funding, plus $1.2 million of their own investment, including bank loans. Kujabi and Baldeh are originally from the West African nation of Gambia. They met in Madison 20 years ago as students at Madison Area Technical College.

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Gooh Grocery is located at 3554 East Washington Avenue, which was home to strip club Visions until it closed in 2020. Kujabi and Baldeh said that the location of the store is intentional, as the site is in a neighborhood designated a food desert by the city. 

Besides a Kwik Trip, the nearest grocery store for residents on East Washington Avenue is a Hy-Vee nearly a mile away. This can be a difficult journey for people without cars, because they would have to pass through major intersections.

The Gooh Grocery building will also provide housing, with apartments for rent above it. 

Gooh Grocery’s selling area is 3,000 square feet. Along with grocery staple items, Gooh Grocery will also feature West African and Hmong food products.

Aiming to enrich the health and welfare of the area, Gooh Grocery will not sell alcohol or cigarettes.

"That would make us a lot of money, fast-selling items, high profits," Baldeh said, as reported by "But I think they're fundamentally harmful. And so we want to avoid that. We are a business, but we also want a business model that is really serving the community and serving them well."

As noted on the Gooh Grocery website: “We believe in giving back to the community that has embraced us. Through various initiatives and partnerships, we aim to make a positive impact on the neighborhoods we serve. We are committed to being more than just a grocery store – we are a partner in the community.”

 In the Senegambian Fulani language, "Gooh" means "one."

"We want to strive to make sure that we are No. 1 in what we are doing for our community," Baldeh said.

A soft opening for the grocery store was held on Jan. 14, with a grand opening scheduled for Jan. 26.

More grocers are looking into nontraditional spaces for new store locations. From historic landmarks to out-of-business retail stores, grocers are searching for ways to recycle existing space rather than construct new stores. 

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