Monday, June 03, 2002

Old grocery new site for fresh food


Ridge Market opens soon in former IGA location

By Randy McNutt, rmcnutt@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Last summer, Pleasant Ridge had a problem. Its old IGA store, at 6142 Montgomery Road, had closed. People in the neighborhood worried that it would sit empty, or attract an undesirable business.

        “We wondered what we could use this building for that helps the community and doesn't become a detriment,” said Mike Kull, a member of imPRove Pleasant Ridge, a business development group. “The idea for a Findlay Market-style market came up.

ABOUT PLEASANT RIDGE
       2000 population: 8,872
       White: 60.6 percent
       Black: 35.5 percent
       Other: 3.9 percent
        “We started recruiting vendors who primarily live in Pleasant Ridge. Suddenly we were flooded with calls from other vendors who wanted to participate. They're starting to realize they can reach out with this market. We're trying to help bolster that style of shopping.”

        The Ridge Market is set to open in mid-June, thanks to hard-working community volunteers who cleaned and helped renovate the building.

        “We've received a lot of support from everybody we've talked to, and some financial support,” said Doug Newberry, president of imPRove. “We're trying to attract better business to Pleasant Ridge. Once we got the thing started, people came to us and said they wanted to invest in the venture. That was good. We didn't want to go outside Pleasant Ridge.”

        The Cincinnati neighborhood seems a natural location for such a market. It's an integrated community with 4,800 homes valued from $80,000 and up.

        “The community runs the gamut from low income to high income and has a great mix, which makes Pleasant Ridge interesting to the people who are moving back here from the suburbs,” Mr. Kull said. “There's a surprising number of them. We're seeing people move back here from Loveland, Symmes Township and other suburbs. They say they don't want their children to face their first cultural diversity when they go to college.”

        Mr. Newberry said residents recognized the IGA store as a social and economic challenge.

        “When faced with something that might have gone bad, they stood up and said, "We want something good to come in here,'” he said.

        The store's closing took some residents by surprise. It has been a grocery for 60 years. Beneath years of remodeling, volunteers found the original tin ceiling. Also left is the building's original charm — from about 1910. To provide the feeling of a market, natural lighting will be used.

        In 15,000 square feet, the Ridge Market will feature 14 vendors who'll be open six days a week, year round. They'll sell fresh produce, meats and other foods. Some vendors include Outer Banks Seafood; Dilly Deli, which will sell beer and wine; and Ridge Deli, a full-scale deli selling meats, cheeses and more.

        “This kind of market is something that's missing in the marketplace right now,” said Mr. Kull, owner of the Dubliner restaurant in Pleasant Ridge.

        “We had choices to make. What do you do with such a place? Do you sit there and wait until it becomes a 99-cent center and then complain about how your community is going downhill? This is all local involvement. Everyone here in Pleasant Ridge realizes the value of making the community work.”

        Although he welcomes the new market, Greg Kathman, manager of Findlay Market for Cincinnati, stressed that the project is not affiliated with Findlay in any way.

        “A lot of people have made that mistake,” he said. This (The Ridge) is a private movement.”

        Mr. Kull believes it will attract customers not only from Pleasant Ridge but across northeast Cincinnati. Pleasant Ridge's business district serves Columbia Township, Kennedy Heights and other neighborhoods.

        “Pleasant Ridge is a tremendously diverse area that makes a good business culture,” Mr. Kull said. “There is a lot of community effort — people have pulled together to start this thing. They are working on weekends. Once you start the motivation ball rolling, it's just as hard to stop as it is the negative ball.”

       



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