October 4, 2023

Indy Fresh Market opens to address the city’s east side food desert

Community member Tonya Hoskins works in the produce department. She's excited to have a grocery store close to home to serve her family. - Elizabeth Gabriel/WFYI

Community member Tonya Hoskins works in the produce department. She's excited to have a grocery store close to home to serve her family.

Elizabeth Gabriel/WFYI

A new grocery store aimed at addressing food deserts in communities of color recently opened on Indianapolis’ east side. The store, known as Indy Fresh Market, aims to provide accessible and nutritious food.

“It's really a dream come true,” said Marckus Williams, co-operator of Indy Fresh Market. “I never thought I'd be in this position, but here I am now and I'm grateful for it. I'm grateful for the community supporting us.”

Williams said he’s especially thankful for the community’s support after the store welcomed 4,000 people during its opening week.

The 16,772 square-foot store is in the Arlington Woods neighborhood near the COOK Medical building and the Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana facility. It’s operated by community entrepreneurs Williams and Michael McFarland. They will manage the store through a rent-to-own model, with the goal of owning the facility within a few years.

The store is a collaboration between COOK Medical, IMPACT Central Indiana, Martin University and other local and national partners. 

Williams said people were previously traveling five or six miles just to get to a grocery store. 

"A lot of other grocery stores are not on the bus line and here we are on the bus line. You’ve got people that’s in this community that hasn't had a grocery store in more than six [or] seven years," Williams said. "To have this back in the community is a big plus for this neighborhood.”

In addition to providing more fresh produce and other healthy food options, the new grocery store will also add roughly 100 jobs to the Marion County economy. Indy Fresh Market is expected to have a one-time economic impact of $11.1 million, and an additional annual impact of $4.6 million in wages and benefits and related spending, according to a report from the Indiana University Public Policy Institute.

Tonya Hoskins works in the produce department and she’s excited to have a market close to home to serve her and her 11-year-old child. 

“It’s so exciting to have a market this close to home to be able to shop,” Hoskins said. “Because we have to go like 10 or 15 minutes out to get to another store. So yeah, this is perfect.”

The store’s partnership with Goodwill allows Indy Fresh Market to provide wraparound services to employees. That includes transportation to work and daycare.

United Northeast Community Development Corporation partnered with the grocery store this summer to hold a job fair, said deputy director Greg Garrett. He has lived in this area since 1989 and seen grocery stores come and go and a food desert develop. Garrett said the area around 38th street and 56th Street has been deprived of a grocery store since a former grocer closed in 2018. 

Now he’s excited people will have healthier and affordable food options on the eastside. 

“One of the things that I'm hopeful for is that this will give people a healthy food option outside of only being able to go to a gas station for food,” Garrett said. “So fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh salads – and items that they sell are equal on the market, as far as quality, to grocery store chains like Meijer and Kroger, and even Walmart.”

While there is a lot of excitement around the new Black-owned business, Garrett hopes the community maintains this momentum and “treat[s] this store as a treasure,” and makes sure it does not succumb to theft and other violence. 

“We want to keep this store open and vibrant and safe,” Garrett said. “So we all have to [make] sure that we are protecting our store as we go along.”

Garrett hopes this grocery store model will eventually spread across Marion County. 

The grocery store is located at 6160 E. 38th St. Its daily hours of operation are 7 a.m.-9 p.m. People can shop online and apply for a job at the store’s website

Contact WFYI’s health reporter Elizabeth Gabriel at egabriel@wfyi.org.

Support independent journalism today. You rely on WFYI to stay informed, and we depend on you to make our work possible. Donate to power our nonprofit reporting today. Give now.

 

Related News

New data shows racial disparities persist in Indianapolis
Citizens Energy Group to begin final upgrades on east side natural gas pipes
UPDATE: Indiana Republicans upset Mike Braun’s choice for lieutenant governor, backing far-right pick