CARMEL, Ind. — Needlers Fresh Market celebrated their grand opening today in Carmel along 126th Street.
The location is the chain grocer’s 10th Indiana store, but the specific market was once home to an O’Malias.
O’Malias was owned by Marsh Supermarkets – when it declared bankruptcy in 2017 many of the existing buildings have sat vacant ever since.
Experts say Needlers will have to overcome several challenges to avoid a similar fate – in the same building.
“The community has to support this great community asset and I am sure the citizens in this area will do so after having experienced a period of years without something here,” Carmel City Councilman and Redevelopment Commission Chair Jeff Worrell said. “It took a lot of work, but it’s been refreshed. New facades on the front of the building. New parking lot. New lighting. New signage. All of those things to give it that warm, welcoming, and safe feeling for people… and as you can see, wow did they turn out today.”
Dozens, if not hundreds, turned out for the ribbon-cutting event at Needlers Friday morning. The trick is to keep them coming back for more.
“So those people, you know, in Carmel, they have to be willing to try something new and for Needlers that’s going to be challenging… to try and get those folks to break out of their shopping habits, try something new,” Associate Director of IU’s Center for Real Estate Studies Sara Coers said. “They just have to find ways to differentiate themselves from the competition to pull those shoppers away.”
As a former Marsh-owned building, Needlers new home, like most others has sat idle for years.
“There was some electrical damage. Some water damage. Frankly, the neighbors were concerned,” Worrell said. “Because there was the feeling of blight.”
The Carmel Redevelopment team stepped up to revamp the building – they did it with future taxpayer dollars.
“We wanted to let the market, the natural ebb and flow of our economy, see if it would take care of this situation… as it got into one year, two years, and three years we realized that we had to step in,” Worrell said. “We’re using taxes based on twenty years out but improving it today.”
It’s a tactic that worked well enough to entice Needlers to move in, other shuttered Marsh buildings, haven’t been so lucky – welcoming in a library in one case and transient businesses like Spirit Halloween in another.
“That Library is fundamentally changing the dynamics of that area,” Coers said. “When you’re talking about temporary tenants like Spirit Halloween, they really don’t do anything but bring temporary income. It takes years to reverse the trend that has been put in place by that long period of vacancy.”
Unlike them, Needlers plans on being a mainstay, and so do many shoppers who remember the building under a different name.
“I used to shop here when it was O’Malias,” Carmel resident Marianne Brocky said. “And I used to shop when it changed to Marsh. And now I’m thrilled that it’s reopened as this beautiful market.”
Michael Needler, President & CEO of Needlers Fresh Market is confident his market will become a local staple.
He’s putting his name on the line to prove it.
“For me, local means accountability. So, if you have a problem with something in one of my stores, with my name on it… you call me and we will fix it,” Needler said.
Needlers hasn’t said if they plan on acquiring other former Marsh-owned buildings, their commitment is on customer experience today.
“All I’m focused on is taking care of every single customer. Every single day,” Needler said. “I can’t make forward-looking statements. I don’t know what they’re gonna want in taste and preferences down the way down the path.”