TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) — The ribbon is cut on Oasis Fresh Market in north Tulsa. It's a moment of joy, but just a few minutes earlier City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper had to hold back tears.
"You don't make progress by standing on the sidelines by whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas. What we are witnessing today is just that, the implementation of an idea," said Hall-Harper.
It may seem like a lot of pomp and circumstance for what is essentially a grocery store. But Oasis Fresh Market owner Aaron Johnson says this comes to an area that has been underserved for too long.
"With this community being once called a food desert for many years, and the USDA describes a food desert as not having a complete grocery store within nine miles. That all changes today. What once was a food desert, there is now an oasis in the desert," said Johnson.
It's not the first time a grocery store has opened in the area. Gateway Market just a short walk from Oasis closed in 2017 after falling behind on taxes. The owner blamed a lack of support from the community. Johnson doesn't see that happening here.
"The success of the grocery store doesn't depend on me. It depends on everyone doing their part to make this a successful grocery store. There are food deserts everywhere, so us partnering together, rowing the boat together in the same direction, that's how I believe this is going to be a success," Johnson said.
Every month, local organizations like BOK, the American Heart Association, and more will gather in the store to provide resources to community members. The hope is Oasis can be a model for the nation.
"By implementing a policy that helps and supports healthy food options and entrepreneurial ship. I believe that local neighborhood grocery store models will be the solution to food deserts across this country," said Hall-Harper.
Whether the experiment works, they say, is all up to the shoppers and the community.