Chains venture into land of indies in Detroit

11/12/2013 04:36:00 PM
Coral Beach

Whole Foods Market in DetroitCourtesy Whole FoodsThe Whole Foods Market (foreground) in downtown Detroit is adjacent to the Wayne State University Medical Center (background).Detroit’s bankrupt government may earn the city a spot in the top news stories of 2013, but the big news this year for those who live and work in the heart of Motor City is the commitment two major grocery chains made by opening stores in the city’s core.

First was Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas, with a new store on Mack Avenue adjacent to the Wayne State University Medical Center.

The June opening was promoted as the unveiling of an oasis for young urban foodies and traditional city dwellers living and toiling in Midtown Detroit’s food desert.

Second by about a month was Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer Inc., which opened a supercenter as the anchor store at the Gateway Marketplace Shopping Center, about 5 miles north of the new Whole Foods.

The store brings not only a full-service grocery store but also more than 550 jobs to the neighborhood around the intersection of Woodward Avenue and 8 Mile Road.

“This store represents a city experience our whole team wants to invest in and watch grow,” store director Adrian Lewis said in a news release.

Lewis personally interviewed more than 400 of the employees for the new Meijer store.

Dominic Riggio, president of Detroit-based Riggio Distribution Co., said the city’s bankruptcy is old news to people in and around Detroit.

He said the downtown area is actually beginning to stage a comeback with young professionals moving into the urban core.

“The opening of Whole Foods near the medical center and Meijer on the north side will do a lot to help revitalize the area,” Riggio said.

Linda Gobler, president and chief executive officer of the Michigan Grocers Association, said the symbiotic relationship of grocery chains and urbanites in downtown Detroit will benefit other businesses and residents in the city.

“Our industry is benefitting from the efforts of people who believe in the city. They are engaging young career-minded people to come in and that will help Whole Foods and Meijer,” Gobler said.

Gobler said a number of independent and ethnic grocers — such as Indian Village Market, E&L Supermercado and Joe Randazzo’s — have stayed the course in Detroit’s downtown despite the economic woes of the city’s government.

Courtesy MeijerThe intersection of Woodward Avenue and Eight Mile Road in Detroit is known to many in Michigan as the former home of the Michigan State Fairgrounds. It is now a commercial development with a Meijer grocery store as an anchor. “The independent grocers who are already in the city will also benefit from the increasing population and the traffic generated by the chains coming in.”

Meijer could go for two


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