The absence of a grocery store has been felt in Diomede since 2020, when the old building had to be demolished.
When other food sources were scarce or fluctuated, such as during poor fishing and hunting seasons, locals decided something needed to be done.
For months, Diomede residents stocked groceries at the local Catholic church as a temporary solution, but the church building is ill equipped for food storage. This summer, work began on a new, energy efficient, store.
The village of Diomede is situated on Little Diomede, an island only 2.4 miles from the Russia’s Big Diomede, on the other side of the date line. The village is perched on steep island cliffs, making new construction a feat.
Residents expected to start building last year, but difficulties delayed the process. Materials are only delivered to Diomede by seasonal barges.
The new store is possible thanks to a series of local and statewide grant funds and a lot of volunteer hours. Francis Ozenna, who is both Diomede’s Tribal Coordinator and Staff and Financial Manager of the construction project, anticipates finishing next year.
“It’s something that, I think, gives communities hope. Regardless of how high the needs are, and you feel like you can’t reach them. Once you start working together everybody has their own ideas, their own opinions, their own input that kind of helps us make it more real. And then working with a whole group of people that are just focused on Diomede’s needs. Really does a difference,” Ozenna said.
Image at top: The Catholic church in Diomede, which served as a temporary, if ill-equipped, grocery store last year.