It's 2:30 p.m. on a Tuesday and a steady stream of customers continues to patronize Claus' German Sausage and Meat Market on East South Street.
By March, however, the butcher shop likely will have abandoned its longtime home for a new building on South Shelby Street in Fountain Square.
Whether its loyal clientele will follow concerns owner Claus Muth, who purchased the store from relative Gerhard Klemm in 2003 and changed the name from Klemm's in April.
"Since [the new location] is close by, and to get there from [Interstate] 65 is easier than it is now, I think the customers will follow," he said, as if reassuring himself. "But I'm hoping to pick up new customers, too."
The risk involved in moving any business is inevitable. But Muth's decision to invest $700,000 to build a 3,200-squarefoot store on a brownfield site is hailed as an opportunity to redevelop an otherwise blighted piece of property. Brownfields are abandoned industrial sites in which contamination confounds redevelopment.
In this case, the land measuring less than an acre contains the hazardous chemical trichloroethene, which is used as a degreaser in the metal and glass industries. Advance Plating Works Inc. once occupied part of the vacant parcel and is responsible for the contamination, according to city and state officials. Documents show a former residence known to be a brothel was once on the property as well.
The city received a $300,000 grant from the state to extract the chemical from the groundwater. The remediation has yet to begin and will delay the store's targeted opening from January to at least March, Muth said. Ground was broken Aug. 2.
Muth is moving because Indianapolisbased Eli Lilly and Co. holds an option on his market's current location. The drugmaker is not forcing Muth out, but he wanted to be pre-emptive and settle into a long-term home. The new Fountain Square location brings the sausage shop closer to its roots. It opened in 1913 in City Market, but had a production facility on Buchanan Street in Fountain Square before combining operations and moving to 315 E. South St. in 1968.
Muth, 40, is purchasing the property from Southeast Neighborhood Development Inc., a not-for-profit whose mission is to revitalize the near-southeast side. A customer of Claus' who sits on SEND's economic development committee and, coincidentally, worked at Klemm's as a teen-ager, alerted Muth to the land's availability.
Cleanup options considered
Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Muth worked as a butcher before immigrating to the United States in 1996 at the urging of Klemm, a cousin of Muth's mother, to eventually take over the family business. Muth is a third-generation owner.
The contamination is of little concern to him because it exists only in a portion of the property's groundwater, Muth said. To accommodate construction, SEND sold Muth two parcels on which the store will be built that are free of the contaminant. Muth will lease from SEND the remaining six lots that are polluted while the cleanup occurs. That land will be used for a parking lot and could take two years to remediate, SEND President Mark Stewart said.
"When we get a clean bill of health from IDEM, we will sell it to Claus," he said. "We thought it was a pretty creative way to redevelop the site and move forward with it."
SEND bought most of the property in 2001 from the city in a tax sale. The notfor-profit purchased the one remaining lot from a California-based holding company in 2005. Ensuing environmental tests discovered the contamination.
Consultants now are considering the best method to rid the property of the pollutant. Perhaps the most effective way would be to use an air sparge/soil venting extraction system, said Kevin Davis, technical review coordinator for the Indiana Brownfields Program.
The system injects compressed air into the groundwater through a series of pipes and wells. The air vaporizes the volatile chemicals that are extracted by a vapor system. A blower and equipment can be hidden in a yard barn and out of sight of customers, Davis said.
Another possibility is injecting a hydrogen-release compound into the groundwater that breaks down the trichloroethene into compounds that aren't as toxic to the environment. The process is slower and might not be as effective if the groundwater contains a lot of iron that can eat up the compound, Davis said.
"What you have to deal with is time factors," he said. "The air sparge is more expensive, but it will take care of the issue, and it will take care of it fairly quickly."
The grant the city received from the state to fund cleanup efforts is unique because it marks the first time in Indianapolis the money will be used to remediate substances other than petroleum, said Chris Harrell, the city's brownfields redevelopment coordinator.
Move prompts mixed feelings
Upon entering Claus', a sign informs customers that only the name of the business has changed, not the quality of the offerings or service. What will be different at the new location, however, is the way the storefront will be designed. The counter and display case will be straight instead of the current, cramped, L-shape.
The architect is Mark Halstead and the construction company is Eden Enterprises.
Some of Muth's customers tried to convince him to locate his new store either on the south or north sides, depending upon where they lived. Muth, though, chose to keep the shop near downtown, so they would have to travel equal distances.
His clientele runs the gamut, from Germans and former soldiers stationed in Germany to Asians and Hispanics, he said. In roughly six months, they'll be ordering Claus' knackwurst and bockwurst from a different location.
Muth has mixed feelings about the pending move.
"It will be something different," he said, "but on the other side, it's quite a bit of a hassle."