A Needler’s Fresh Market is slated to open in Carmel’s former O’Malia Food Market by next fall, helping fill a grocery gap on the city’s east side.
Neighborhood residents have been without a nearby grocery store for more than two years. The last store to operate there, O’Malia Food Market, opened in the Brookshire Village Shoppes at 4762 E. 126th St. in 1982. Marsh Supermarkets Inc. bought the business in 2001, and the grocer closed the store in summer 2017.
In September, Indianapolis-based real estate investment firm KennMar bought the 67,000-square-foot Brookshire center for $6.4 million with plans to attract a new neighborhood grocer.
“As a developer, we have not only a responsibility to put together financially feasible projects, but we also have social responsibilities to make sure we’re doing something for the greater good of the area,” Brent Benge, president and CEO of KennMar, told IBJ on Thursday.
That’s why, in addition to finalizing a 25,000-square-foot lease with Needler’s in the O’Malia’s space, both companies plan to invest a total of between $5 million and $6 million to update the center’s facade with a more modern aesthetic.
Benge said work will begin sometime in February or March, and the 13 businesses currently leasing space in the center will be able to stay open during construction. Needler’s lease is for 85% of the space O’Malia occupied, so when the project is done, KennMar has plans to lease the remaining 15%, as well as the former PNC Bank branch on a Brookshire outlot.
“It’s important we have a full shopping center there, and that money continues to be invested in it,” Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard told IBJ on Tuesday. “This is the only place a grocery store can go on the east side of Carmel.”
To help the project become a reality, Benge said KennMar will be seeking support from the city to issue at least $1.5 million in developer-backed bonds.
“Grocers, they’re operating off very thin margins in today’s environment,” Benge said. “We’ve made the commitment to put something in the area that’s needed, knowing the economics of the deal are tough.”
Brainard said the city was able to guide the right grocer to that land by offering those city supports.
“We have a considerable amount of work to be done to this space to bring it up to today’s standards,” Michael Needler, CEO of Needler’s Fresh Market, said. “Those (incentives) are going to be incredibly important for us to make this whole thing go.”
Needler said his company’s decision to open in the hungry market is a response to the changing way people shop.
“There’s a lot more emphasis on ‘frequency of shop,’ as opposed to what used to be the big Sunday run,” Needler said. “Consumers today are fresher in their selection, which requires frequency. When you add that lifestyle of frequency and freshness, you want easy in, easy out.”
When it opens sometime late next summer or early fall, Needler said the store will create between 80 and 120 new jobs. Needler’s already has 10 stores across Indianapolis and the central portion of the state, as well as one store in Ohio.
Although a Needler’s in Geist closed a year ago, Needler is looking to other central Indiana stores as an example of what the Carmel location can offer. Needler’s opened a store in a former Marsh location in downtown Indianapolis’ Lockerbie Marketplace in 2017.
“The downtown market has shown that Indianapolis has the consumer segment to support a first-class independent retailer, and we feel there is some continuity between the things we see downtown and Carmel,” Needler said. “We find ourselves fitting in between your major national brands and specialty stores. You can get your kombucha and your Cheerios, too.”
Needler’s Fresh Market was created as a new brand when Ohio-based Generative Growth II purchased 15 former Marsh Supermarkets locations in June 2017 following Marsh’s bankruptcy.