Monday, October 24, 2005

Arthur's Fresh Market on Hold

Disappointing news for those of us waiting for Marsh to break ground on the proposed Arthur's Fresh Market in the old Atlas space at 54th and College: The project is on hold indefinitely. This week's Indianapolis Business Journal reports that due to the poor financial performance and problems the corporation is facing, they've put the new concept market on hold. It's doubly sad since Federal courts refused to grant an injunction against them brought by North Carolina-based Fresh Markets, which means they're free to use of the name and concept. While the court case has caused some delay so far, it sounds like it hasn't been the only hold up.

Certainly, I recognize the business realities of proceeding with a seemingly-risky new expansion when their core grocery business is in trouble, but it seems so short sighted based on several factors:

1) Few people missed the recent New York Times article about the trouble the entire traditional grocery business is finding itself in. Traditional grocery stores are finding themselves in real financial trouble as consumers increasingly shop at multiple stores: the higher end grocery like Trader Joes, Whole Foods, or Wild Oats for specialty items, then all purpose and big box stores like Wal-Mart, Meier or SuperTarget for everyday items at better prices. The traditional chains like Marsh, Kroger and Safeway are having trouble across the country.

2) The Meridian-Kessler neighborhood is perfect for the high-end specialty food market. As the IBJ article points out, people from all of central Indianapolis used to shop at Atlas for specialty items. The average income increases every year and the area is expanding. For those of us in the neighborhood, it was just a great local grocery.

3) The booming residential market from south of Broad Ripple to downtown should be reason enough for a new grocery store to move into the area. O'Malia's serves downtown to some extent and there's the scary Kroger on 16th, but there's no real option for any of the large population in the the gentrifying Mapleton, Meridian Park, College Ave, Fall Creek, and Near Northside areas. Maybe the large chains feel these residents already trek to the northside for their food shopping, but I'd sure like an option.

There's no question Marsh's core grocery business isn't working which seems like a prime time to be looking to the future and what customers increasingly want. When consumer trends change, I'd think it would be better to be in front of it. In the meantime, it looks like there are no plans to make good on the promised demolition of the three buildings in the old Atlas area. The site remains surrounded by a chain-link fence collecting garbage and graffiti. Let's hope that if Marsh keeps the project in the deep freeze that they at least do the right thing by the neighborhood and clean up the space.

No comments: