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The proposed location for Shark Market, a proposed 3,500-square-foot grocery store in Grand Rapids' Heartside neighborhood. The proposed location for Shark Market, a proposed 3,500-square-foot grocery store in Grand Rapids' Heartside neighborhood. PHOTO BY: Nick Manes

Proposed downtown Grand Rapids grocery store fills growing need, partners say

BY Friday, April 29, 2016 01:26pm

GRAND RAPIDS — The partners in a newly proposed grocery store in downtown Grand Rapids cite the growing number of residents and workers in the Heartside neighborhood as a sign that the city needs more food options.

Jeff VandenBerg and his three partners in Shark Market LLC aim to tailor the 3,500-square-foot “specialty grocery market” at 38 Commerce Ave. SW to residents of the scores of new apartment developments being built in the area, as well as provide necessities for workers at nearby offices, bars and restaurants.

But perhaps more importantly, the partners see the emergence of a variety of stores carrying groceries as a sign the downtown Grand Rapids area is starting to grow up. As more people move to downtown, they expect to witness a culture shift wherein consumers will shop more frequently but buy less each time.

“The business model is built on mobility,” said Nick Monoyios, one of four partners in the proposed store. “As we get past the adolescence of downtown, we get past filling your trunk with groceries.”

Monoyios said his team has yet to finalize estimates for the total investment they’ll need to make to transform the vacant space into the proposed Shark Market. The partners have enlisted Grand Rapids-based Lott3Metz Architecture LLC for the store’s design and will work with Rockford Construction for the build-out.

The store still requires approval from the Grand Rapids Planning Commission at its meeting in mid-May. The owners have yet to determine an opening date, said Monoyios, who also serves as a long range planner with the Grand Rapids-based Interurban Transit Partnership, commonly known as The Rapid.

At just over 3,500 square feet, Shark Market is not intended to recreate the experience of shopping at a Meijer or even a full-service pharmacy or convenience store, Monoyios said. Rather, the store will be similar to Martha’s Vineyard, a higher-end store in the Heritage Hill neighborhood.

Shark Market will focus on Michigan-made beer and wine, as well as local food products.

“We want to stay away from corporate retail,” Monoyios said. “We want to to create a market that’s approachable.”

While Shark Market may become the first specialty food retailer in the burgeoning Heartside district, other downtown stores have deployed the neighborhood market concept for years.

Tom Powell, who’s owned Grand Central Market on Monroe Center Avenue since 2010, said he’s not concerned about the emergence of another specialty market in the downtown area. In fact, he views it as a “rising tide lifts all boats” scenario as downtown Grand Rapids approaches a population where multiple markets could be sustainable.

“I’m not surprised,” Powell said, referring to the proposed Shark Market just two blocks away. “I think there’s room for that. … I wish them well.”

Not only does Powell believe there’s room for additional grocery markets, but he also plans to double down on his own business in the coming months. Powell told MiBiz he hopes to finalize plans to expand Grand Central Market into the vacant unit immediately next door, which had been occupied by West Coast Coffee. The move would allow Grand Central Market to expand grocery its offerings as well as feature a larger produce selection, he said.

Shark Market and Grand Central Market join a growing list of expanding or newly proposed food retailers.

As MiBiz previously reported, Orion Construction Inc.’s plans for a two-tower office and residential development at the corner of Lyon Street and Ottawa Avenue include 10,000 to 15,000 square feet for an unnamed grocery retailer. Additionally, Third Coast Development hopes to attract a similar-sized grocery user for its planned mixed-use project at the corner of Michigan Street and Diamond Avenue.

Despite the competition, Shark Market will differentiate itself by being one of the few locations in the downtown area to stay open late, Monoyios said, noting that he believes the late-night crowd is an under-served part of the market.

“Our biggest advantage is looking to be open until 2 a.m. daily,” Monoyios said. “There’s a desert for that right now. We recognize that as downtown emerges, it’s going to be a 24-hour city.”

Editor's note: A previous version of this story said that Pioneer Construction would be working on the build-out. The correct company is Rockford Construction. The story has been updated to reflect that.

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