FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - There are a lot of businesses and places to eat in downtown Fort Wayne. One thing is still missing: a grocery store. One local business owner said he’s making plans to change that. The plans were first announced last July. A year later, details are being finalized and construction is expected to start soon.
The grocery store is going in the the Lamplight Inn on Washington Boulevard. The senior living facility used to be a hotel. It has several large rooms that will house the store. The owners plan to knock down several walls and level out a portion of the first floor. They said it will be about the size of a Walgreens, but function as a full-service grocery store. They said it will be similar to a Trader Joe’s.
“We’ve got a very healthy mindset with the company where we promote health. We have a very good wellness program. Most of us are organic in nature where we like to eat the organic food, but sometimes we still want the regular stuff. I think a Trader Joe’s kind of does that. They have good healthy options. Maybe it’s not all organic, maybe some of it is natural and hormone free , but there is also some of the regular stuff that people want to come in and grab too like toiletries. One of the things that we talked about before is having fresh food available for grab and go stuff for the working person that’s downtown as well as other fresh items that you can get, vegetables and fruits.” COO of Lamplight, Bobby Petras said.
Construction was supposed to start last November, but several factors have caused a delay.
“We did a blind bid process where we sent out to a bunch of general contractors. We’ve selected the general contractor. We had somebody lined up to lease the space and they backed out. So, we have another group lined up and we’re waiting just to kind of get the final pieces put together for the lease,” Petras said.
The company has also grown significantly since this time last year.
“Unfortunately and fortunately, Lamplight as a company has grown since last year. Last year, at this time, we had five properties and now we have nine in six different states. So, all of us kind of get pulled in every direction. We lose a little bit of focus on this, but it’s still something that we want to do,” Petras said.
Everything else is in place, and the owners said it’s just a matter of agreeing on the lease terms with the interested operator.
“We know what we want to do with it. We know what our vision is for it. We’re just trying to find the other person who wants to run it that will share that vision. We ask everybody to be patient with us. We want to get it going, but things like this always take more time than you think, and this is another example of that,” Petras said.
It’s something people who live, work, and play downtown are welcoming with open arms. Kelsey Quigley has lived downtown for two years and usually has to do her grocery shopping on the southwest side of town. She said she would definitely take advantage of a grocery store downtown.
“It would be great. I don’t have to drive. I can walk to the grocery, walk to work, walk home, done,” Quigley said.
Brian Stewart has lived downtown for the last seven years. He said he’s looking forward to a grocery store coming to the area.
“Being downtown, I walk around downtown, I ride my bike downtown, and just to be able to come up the street and stay in the area to shop, I think it would be the most awesome thing that they could do down there,” Stewart said.
David Ludwig doesn’t live downtown, but he supports the project. He said he thinks putting a grocery store is vital to downtown.
“Being a landlord, I’ve got a lot of properties in this area and a lot of people especially our age don’t want to move downtown because there’s no where to shop. We’re putting so much money into downtown Fort Wayne. We’ve got to have things to sustain people to be able to live down here. I love to come downtown as much as I can. I’m all about a vibrant and growing Fort Wayne. It’s good for business, it’s good for everybody that lives here,” Ludwig said.
Bill Brown is the president of the Downtown Improvement District. He said the need for a grocery store downtown is great and comes up often when talking about how to improve the area.
“Downtown is a unique ecosystem of people and places. You can’t get downtown anywhere else close to here. Come down and participate and just your presence in downtown Fort Wayne makes a huge difference. Come downtown, do your shopping, whether it’s grocery, retail, whatever it might be, patronize and help support, make the cash registers ring,” Brown said.