For Jason Hernandez, a McKinney native, returning to the intersection of Greenville Road and Murray Street in east McKinney is what a full circle moment looks like.
“Being back on this street corner brings back bittersweet memories,” Hernandez said.
Bitter because it was outside a small store on the corner that Hernandez made his first drug deal when he was 15 years old.
Six years later he would be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Convicted of selling crack in 1998, Hernandez spent 18 years in a federal prison before President Obama granted his request for clemency.
“What was I thinking? I mean, I thought I was bettering people’s lives when in reality, I was destroying lives,” Hernandez told NBC 5 shortly after his release in 2015.
Now, he’s doing the opposite because the same store where he sold his first dime bag 30 years ago, Jason just bought.
“I feel like I owe this community, I feel this community that I love that there was a time when I was poisoning it, and now, instead of selling marijuana, I want to sell oranges, I want to sell fruits, I want to sell vegetables,” Hernandez said.
A fresh slate that starts with clearing shelves.
He’s been giving away sodas and snacks left by the previous owner and plans to destroy everything behind the counter, including items that can be used to sell and do drugs.
“At the end of the day, I just want to do something good for the ‘hood,” he said.
Re-imagining a 70-year-old store is about as overwhelming and unglamorous as it sounds.
Hernandez stays organized by making lists on a whiteboard he keeps on top of a stack of boxes in the back of the store.
“I was released in 2015. I’ve been a part of the community, but I hadn’t done anything like this,” he said.
Hernandez wants to replace junk food on shelves with healthy, affordable options for a neighborhood that’s considered a food desert.
He expects the store to re-open sometime in late summer.
A grant through the Marguerite Casey Foundation helped Hernandez buy the business.
The nonprofit helps members of communities rebuild them the way they see fit.