I’ve been saying for 5 or 10 years now that if I had the money to start my own business in downtown Roanoke, it wouldn’t be a restaurant. It would be a gourmet grocery store – something like a Tinnell’s Finer Foods in South Roanoke, except bigger and with even more selection.
Of course, 10 years ago (and maybe even 5 years ago), we probably wouldn’t have had the customer base in downtown Roanoke to make a go of it. Now that so many people are moving into revitalized downtown buildings, it’s the best time ever for an endeavor like this. So I was excited (and a little jealous) when I read Jenny Kincaid Boone’s story in the Business section of The Roanoke Times this morning about four investors who hope to open just such a store on Church Avenue.
Just two years ago, you couldn’t even find a convenience store in downtown Roanoke. Now we have two. But the problem has remained that besides the farmers market, there’s no place to buy groceries. I don’t think this store will be a boon to just downtown residents; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I could run downtown on my way home and pick up some household staple I needed or some dinner fixings I wanted so I wouldn’t have to go to the grocery store. Downtown workers will undoubtedly find this very convenient, but the store owners are going to have to stay open late enough to serve the customers who don’t get off work until 5 or 6 p.m., maybe later.
According to Jenny’s story, the project is in the very early stages. They’re going to have to do a lot of remodeling and then find folks who want to rent from them and open shops. I hope they can keep the dream alive, and I also hope they don’t spend so much time thinking about the health club and the food court that they lose sight of what we really need downtown: Groceries!
What would you like to see in a downtown grocery store? And would you shop there?