Downtown grocery store could help spur further development

A grocery store may be something that people take for granted, but a new grocery store is an event. It’s something to make a fuss over, to celebrate.

It’s a notion most recently demonstrated at the groundbreaking of the Country Style Market in downtown Port Huron, drawing local news crews to document the event.

The addition of a grocery store to downtown Port Huron is a project that has long been in the making. In fact, it’s a need that was identified by the Blue Meets Green economic development group six years ago. The current development has been in the works for more than two years.

After conducting a feasibility study that confirmed a required demand, developers were courted. But the national chains didn’t grasp the opportunity and it’s a local business that has seized the opportunity to build downtown.

Entrepreneurs Steve Fernandez and Michelle Jones are bringing their Country Style Market Place to downtown Port Huron, a second location for the business originally located in Fort Gratiot.

Capital Impact Partners, a Community Development Finance Institution, provided Country Style Market Place $1.9 million in funding to help make the downtown grocery store a reality.

“We’ve been looking at bringing a grocery store downtown. We talked to the chains and maybe downtown doesn’t necessarily check all of their boxes but they don’t realize how much traffic downtown gets. Hundreds of people come downtown for work every day,” says Jeff Bohm, District 5 County Commissioner for St. Clair County.

It was a local company that recognized that need, and perhaps appropriately so.

The addition of a downtown grocery store can provide a lot more than fresh produce, too.

“With the amount of loft investment in downtown Port Huron — there are more than 200 lofts and even more demand for that downtown loft product — there are certain amenities people are looking for,” Bohm says.

“I don’t think there’s been a grocery store downtown in 50 years. It’s the type of amenity people are looking for.

“Lofts are a big reason downtowns redevelop and Port Huron is no different.”

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