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Indie Closeup: Hank’s Banks on Strength in Numbers

Owner Kelli Jackson continues unwavering mission to provide healthy foods for locals seeking better choices
hank's mini market
Photographs courtesy of Hank's Mini Market

Community advocacy could well be the merchandising mantra for Hank’s Mini Market in Southcentral Los Angeles.

Owner Kelli Jackson, who succeeded her father Hank as store proprietor several years ago, is leveraging everything from genuine goodwill to social media—all to persuade local residents to establish eating lifestyles emphasizing healthier options, such as whole grain foods. Hank’s offers these options, making such a decision an accessible slam dunk.

Broadly, Jackson has used her Instagram and Facebook platforms to spread the word about store-sponsored events, of which there are multiple formal or informal. The most recent was a late July collaboration with UCLA Health and the Social Justice Learning Institute (SJLI) in hosting the “Health Fest” community event. The theme: “Stronger Together.”

“We have inspired local people to show that when it comes to our store, it’s more than transactional but about being community-based.”

And, broadly, Jackson is huddling with long-time friend Dorothy Simmons to procure fresh fruits and vegetables from local and regional farms, with an emphasis on working with entrepreneurs of color.  

In the several years since Jackson served as one of the original CSP Indie Innovators” in 2018 “Indie Influencers” in 2021, she has established a vision to tout a fresh-foods strategy, with procurement often driven by vendor-partners. Now, the plan is working directly through small-to-midsized farming entities for a direct “farm-to-store” dynamic.

“Dorothy, who I’ve known for years, is what you would call a ‘forager.’ She has significant experience with procurement of fresh and healthy produce and has built solid relationships with family farmers—we’re working through a Fresno [California]-area farm to supply product as well as with K&K Ranch, a female-run business owned by a woman of color. It’s exciting,” said Jackson, of the family farm located in California’s fertile Central Valley.

“We have inspired local people to show that when it comes to our store, it’s more than transactional but about being community-based. People want these better food options, but we also strive to balance them with indulgent products,” she added. “The overarching idea is that this business is more than food … but about community.”

Invested, Inveterate Influencer

Jackson operates the 2,500-square-foot c-store that was named 2019 Small Business of the Year representing California District 30. But a year later, similar to many small businesses, Hank’s Mini Market fell on hard times during the 2020 pandemic and has worked hard to bounce back.

While Hank’s merchandises traditional brand snacks and beverages, Jackson reopened the store and immediately heard customer feedback asking for healthy, immune system-boosting products, such as alkaline water and ginger. There had been a dearth of those options available in Southcentral Los Angeles.

Jackson also placed an accent on curating “Hank’s Collection” of healthy food and beverage, all procured from local African-American suppliers.

Event planning is ongoing. The collaboration with UCLA Health and Social Justice Learning Institute on Health Fest served as Hank’s “first health fest and first big community activation/gathering in three years. It was a day of family, friends, neighbors, organizations, vendors and partners uniting to advocate and celebrate health and wellness for all,” said Jackson. “We are closing off a portion of 11th Ave. to provide the necessary space, and it was totally free to the community.”

Last February, Hank’s Mini Market allowed its local Girl Scout troop to set up a cookie booth at the store, and in January reassembled for a weekend of service to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “and celebrate his vision of justice, equal opportunity and love for one another. We believe we are always stronger together and really value gathering as a community to help each other thrive,” said Jackson, who offers store hours between 10 am and 6 pm six days a week, closed Sundays—all to spend quality time with her father and store founder Hank.

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