In 2017, the north end of Kokomo lost its only substantial grocery store, and not much has changed since then.
About three years ago, Marsh Supermarkets filed for bankruptcy. When the company went under, 18 of its stores closed between Indiana and Ohio. Two of those locations were in Kokomo, and the Marsh located at 1401 N. Washington St. was the only major grocery store on Kokomo’s north end. Ever since then, the building has remained largely vacant, and that side of town has been something of a food desert ever since.
Yakub Patel, who lives in New Jersey, has owned the structure at 1401 N. Washington St. since 2006. According to him, Marsh was an ideal tenant to fill the 35,968-square-foot retail space. But, since the company filed for bankruptcy, Patel has been unable to find a new tenant for the space.
In fact, it’s been some time since he’s even had anyone express interest in the building, which is among the largest retail vacancies on the north end of Kokomo.
“I think it was a couple years ago, but it didn’t materialize into anything,” said Patel.
But, Patel is holding out hope that a tenant will step forward. Now, with so much time having passed since someone occupied the building, Patel said he’s even open to dividing up the more than 35,000 square-foot building so multiple tenants could occupy the space.
“We think if we can get a good tenant, we can give a break, and they can upgrade it or something they want to do whatever, you know. We are willing to work with the new tenant … We are flexible,” said Patel.
Mayor Tyler Moore acknowledged that the north end of Kokomo may be in need of a more sizable grocery store on the north end.
“I’d love to see that old marsh area be repurposed for something or utilized … I think there is a need for another grocery and potential pharmacy up that direction,” said Moore. “I know there’s a CVS at Apperson and Morgan and obviously Dollar General going in there at North and Washington. That will help to some extent, but I would love to see a grocery store snatch that up and repurpose.”
Moore said the old Marsh building, as well as the vacant Kmart on Dixon, both represent potential opportunity areas for development. But, at this point, it’s unknown what form that may take, especially given the current economic issues that COVID-19 has created.
Regardless, Moore said he believed both vacant buildings, should they become occupied, could create a “spark” in those neighborhoods.
“A private investment would be ideal. If the city could participate in any way, shape, and form to make that happen, we would,” said Moore. “If it was a public-private partnership, I don’t think we’d be opposed to that as well, just something to utilize that facility and others but also to help potentially fill a need that is very vital to that part of our city.”