The news this morning that the upscale grocer Fresh Market is going to convert the Ike's at Union and Cooper into its newest Memphis location brought great joy to the hearts of most Midtowners.
We were already pleased at the news about Kroger's big rebuild of its Midtown store on Union. We've had Kroger envy for a while now, ever since the Big K built that massive store in Poplar Plaza. We visited that store and we dreamed. Big dreams. Dreams of a craft beer section. Visions of massive new cheese options, instead of the three types of Gouda and four types of cheddar Kroger currently offers in Midtown. We dreamed of wide well-lit aisles, mounds of fresh produce, gleaming fresh-cut steaks, seafood that wasn't pre-frozen.
Yes, we had dreams, but they were still a couple years away. There's a lot of tearing down and building that needs to happen yet. And frankly we, at least the "we" that lives on the block of Idlewild Street between Union and Linden, have fears about the new mega Kroger. We fear our quiet little block will become a shortcut to Kroger's parking lot, a way for clever Midtowners to circumvent the Union bugtussle and sneak in the lot from the east-side door.
Our neighborhood fought Kroger, asked them not to put an entrance and exit on our little street. We went to city hall and asked for help from the Board of Adjustment, but didn't get it. We did manage to get Kroger to promise build a exit/entrance that would make exiting the east side of the lot south onto Idlewild and entering the lot from the south on Idlewild more difficult. But we still think we'll get lots of traffic we don't have now.
So our Kroger dreams are slightly mixed. Better store and better food selection? Yes. More traffic and less peace and quiet? No.
Which is why the Fresh Market move is doubly exciting. It will bring more grocery shopping options into play, and it will presumably reduce some of the traffic going into Kroger. Plus, Fresh Market will beat Kroger to the punch by at least a year.
All in all, I think we're seeing the business community beginning to recognize what we central city folks have known for a long time: Midtown (and downtown, for that matter) is healthy, full of disposable income, and is home to thousands of shoppers tired of having to drive east for choice and quality. Welcome.