Various Cincinnati neighborhoods are in transition, experiencing a shifting landscape with grocery stores either entering or exiting: Kroger closing in Walnut Hills, the proposed downtown Kroger development, the new Corryville Kroger, Clifton Market, Apple Street Market in Northside and the The Epicurean Mercantile Co. in Over-the-Rhine — among others.
In May, the owners of Findlay Market staple Fresh Table opened EMC on Race Street just across from the Market, as they saw a need for a full-service grocery store in the area.
“There was a real need [for a grocery store] in OTR, but also the Central Business District,” says Meredith Trombly, owner of EMC. “We always knew we were going to form a new business, whether that was a food truck, herb garden or what have you.”
The 5,000-square-foot store is also home to The Counter, a 1,000-square-foot restaurant that serves food for dine-in or carryout.
Trombly believes that being along the streetcar line offers a convenience to downtown residents and the surrounding neighborhood, and that including a restaurant sets them apart from others. She also sees a need for other grocery stores to offer something different in the current economic landscape.
“We wanted something unique for the neighborhood — something different but also functional. People are looking for that kind of convenience, that kind of spark.”
Similarly, Clifton Market, which opened in January, has since filled The Gaslight District’s grocery store vacancy following the closure of Keller’s IGA in 2010. The market’s model is also different than other grocery stores in Cincinnati, with its many shareholders making its opening possible.
The market’s board first met in Aug. 2013 to discuss opening the grocery store, which incorporated in Jan. 2014 and opened in Jan. 2017.
“We went to a co-op startup conference in 2014 and we told them we just got incorporated, and then we told them we wanted to open up in 2-3 years,” says Marilyn Hyland, founding board member of Clifton Market. “They told us, ‘No, you can’t do that. It takes 5-9 years to open up a food co-op.’”
Clifton Market began selling shares to the community in March 2014, and by Dec. 2015, it had raised nearly $1.65 million in owner shares and owner loans. It currently has more than 1,700 shareholders.
“A lot of why we felt it would be feasible to raise the money for the grocery store was in the Clifton tradition of rolling up your sleeves and planning and making happen the picture of the community that people have," Hyland says.
The market is beginning its third phase of fundraising, aiming to raise $100,000 this month and $500,000 within the next six months. This new round of fundraising will focus around a variety of events and share drives to provide a better startup cushion for the store.
Clifton Market is also preparing to offer online delivery at a cost of $2 to collect groceries in-store and $10 for delivery within a five-mile radius. There are future plans to extend the delivery service to anywhere within the I-275 loop. Hyland sees this as an opportunity to bring people from outside of the neighborhood into the area.
“The grocery store is a social space, as well as the heart of a community,” Hyland says. “But you don’t have to live in Clifton to love it. You can go there, shed your car and be a part of everything.”