The International Marketplace district on the city’s northwest side, which is well-known for its density of international restaurants, is holding its own during the pandemic, with a handful of restaurant closures balanced out by others that are opening or reopening.
“This area is doing OK,” said Mary Clark, executive director of the International Marketplace Coalition, a not-for-profit organization aimed at supporting the district and its international flavor. “People are still calling us wanting to come to (visit) this area.”
More than 850 ethnic businesses operate within the 2.5-square-mile district, including more than 100 restaurants and 50 markets. The district spans Lafayette Road between 34th and 46th streets and 38th Street between High School Road and Commercial Drive.
A newcomer to the district, Barry’s African Restaurant, is set to open this fall at 4653 Lafayette Road, in a 1,250-square-foot space in a shopping center formerly anchored by Value City Furniture.
The restaurant’s owner is Alhassane Barry, who also owns the taxi company Green Cab. The taxi business is not active now, Barry said, because the pandemic emptied the city of the travelers and conventioneers who made up his customer base.
Barry, who moved here 18 years ago from the West Africa country of Guinea, said he’d always wanted to run a restaurant. With his taxi business on hold, he decided to take the plunge.
“Right now, I just want to do something different,” Barry said.
He said the restaurant will feature “a little bit of everything,” including rice dishes, beef, lamb, grilled items and other cuisine from different nations in West Africa.
Barry said he hopes to have his restaurant open by the end of next month.
Also opening soon is Yummy Crab, a seafood restaurant at 5046 West Pike Plaza Road that Clark said should open within the next few weeks. This will be the second location for Yummy Crab, which also operates at 9960 E. Washington St.
In the “reopenings” category, Harsi’s Subs N Pizza reopened Aug. 28 at 3337 Georgetown Road. The long-time restaurant had been closed for repairs since September 2019, when a driver in a high-speed car chase crashed into the building and damaged it.
And Bon Appetit, a Haitian restaurant that closed recently at 4225 Lafayette Road, is set to reopen at a new location with new ownership. The new owner, Sorelle Denoyer, said Bon Appetit will reopen at 4730 Century Plaza with the same chef, employees and menu as before. Denoyer said he’s hoping to open his restaurant by the end of the month.
Some restaurants have also closed, including the Red Lobster at 5090 W. 38th St. A spokesperson for the chain said that location closed Aug. 30.
Other recent closures in the International Marketplace district include the seafood restaurant Delicias Del Mar Rojo at 4040 N. High School Road; and New Taste Buffet, a Chinese buffet at 4720 W. 38th St. Clark said the Chinese buffet closed this spring during the pandemic lockdown and the owners decided not to reopen.
Meanwhile, the International Marketplace Coalition is forging ahead with its plans for a $12 million welcome center and museum at 4233 Lafayette Road, in a space that formerly housed Value City Furniture.
The coalition purchased the 56,000-square-foot property last fall.
Plans call for event space, a demonstration kitchen and food kiosks, exhibits featuring items from each continent, and office space for coalition employees.
Clark said the coalition is working with the project’s architect to finalize project designs now. Pending city approvals, Clark said she hopes work on the project will begin by the end of this year, which would put the center’s opening in 2021.
To date, Clark said, the coalition has raised about $4 million toward the project.
In other news this week:
— Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana opened its new east-side outlet store Wednesday at 4105 N. Franklin Road. The 202,000-square-foot facility replaces the Goodwill outlet store at 2900 N. Shadeland Ave., which closed on Saturday.
— America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses has opened its sixth Indianapolis store at 2685 E. Main St., Suite 106, in the Plainfield Commons shopping center. America’s Best’s corporate parent, suburban Atlanta-based National Vision Inc., operates more than 1,000 stores under various retail brands, including America’s Best, Eyeglass World, Vision Centers inside select Walmart stores, and Vista Optical inside select Fred Meyer stores and on select military bases.