So long, Farmer Jack, hello Mike’s Fresh Foods

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DETROIT

City residents get their wish: Upscale grocer opens today
Former Farmer Jack is a prime site, owner says

The scallions and gingerroot are laid out in the produce section.

Meats are ready in the deli.

Organic pasta is on the shelves.When Mike’s Fresh Market opens today at 7 Mile and Livernois in Detroit, it will bring to the city an upscale grocery store — something in short supply that often sends residents into the suburbs for the foods they want.

“This location is a good, prime location,” said Jamal Abro, who owns Mike’s Fresh Market with Mike Koza and Lyon Koza. “My strategy is to give the consumer what they want in the city instead of them looking for what they want out of the city.”

Located near the city’s University District, Sherwood Forest and Palmer Woods neighborhoods, the grocery store’s owners said they believe they can tap into an underserved market.

The owners of Mike’s Fresh Market virtually gutted the store, formerly a Farmer Jack that closed when that chain shut down in July. They put in a new floor, shelves, checkout aisles, refrigeration and freezer units, repainted the interior and exterior and redid the exterior lighting.

There’s another Mike’s Fresh Market on Gratiot, but Abro said the new store has many of the owners’ personal favorites, such as an Asian food section.

The opening is welcome news to nearby residents like Vicky Reyes, who steered clear of the old Farmer Jack, which she said had become run down and dirty. Reyes said she instead shopped at stores near her job in Oakland County or at the nearby Savon Foods supermarket in Detroit.

“I think everyone is excited about having a market that is more centered on fresh produce and clean now,” she said.

Reyes soon will have more choices at Savon as well. Savon manager Marvin Pattah said the store plans to add a deli and a pharmacy.

City officials said the opening of Mike’s Fresh Market is an example of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s plans with Next Detroit Neighborhood Initiative.

University District, one of the six neighborhoods in the program, made adding an upscale grocer a priority, said Anika Goss-Foster, director of the city’s philanthropic affairs.

“They really wanted to focus first on a grocer that would provide gourmet-quality goods,” she said. “It wouldn’t be your typical independent grocer that would move in behind that Farmer Jack.”

Goss-Foster said the city told the store’s owners what residents said they wanted and helped walk them through the permitting process.

There are 177 grocery and convenience stores operating in the city, but only 92 of those are bigger than 10,000 square feet, said Olga Savic, an official with the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. She is a cochair of a task force examining how to improve the city’s grocery store climate.

Most suburban grocery stores are 25,000 to 30,000 square feet, Savic said. Mike’s Fresh Market on Livernois is 42,000 square feet.

Grocery stores can be difficult to attract because they operate on a small profit margin because of the perishable nature of their products, Savic said. The keys to attracting more grocery stores in Detroit, she said, are making available land, putting together a sufficient workforce and securing financing.

But the market is clearly underserved, Savic said.

“There’s demonstrated leakage taking place,” she said of city residents shopping in the suburbs.

Financing is a major hurdle to adding more grocery stores in the city.

Paul Irwin, senior commercial executive for Fifth Third Bank in eastern Michigan, which provided financing to the Mike’s Fresh Market owners to buy the old Farmer Jack, renovate it and stock the store, said it’s important to find good operators.

“Mike Koza is one of the best because he’s personally involved,” Irwin said of one of the co-owners.

Contact ZACHARY GORCHOW at 313-222-6678 or zgorchow@freepress.com.

 
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~ by Keith A. Owens on October 24, 2007.

3 Responses to “So long, Farmer Jack, hello Mike’s Fresh Foods”

  1. Wow! I did not know there was a new grocer here. SMH. I have not been reading or watching the news like I used to do. I am not far from there. I will have to check it out.

  2. I hope the prices are affordable, however!

    I’ve moved to a dedicated domain at http://www.modernmusings.com and will delete the one with blogger at the end of the month.

    As always wishing you well.

    Danielle

  3. Shai,

    Glad to help out!

    Danielle,

    As always it’s great to have you in the neighborhood. And congratulations on your new site! I hope the prices are affordable as well. But even if they’re a bit higher than Farmer Jack’s prices, those who refuse to go with that have another good store available practically walking distance from there at the neighborhood Savon store.

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