published Friday, May 18th, 2012

Chattanooga's Main Street Street grocery to open by 2013

Construction is scheduled to start June 1 on Enzo’s Market at Main and Long
streets.
Construction is scheduled to start June 1 on Enzo’s Market at Main and Long streets.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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After four years of planning and searching for financing, Chattanooga's Main Street is getting a grocery store.

Construction begins on Enzo's Market on June 1 and is expected to wrap up by the end of the year. The $4.5 million, 17,000-square-foot project will sit at 100 West Main Street, a block west of Market Street.

Developer Eric Cummings has envisioned a grocer for the site since he bought the space in 2008. He expects it will mesh well with the already-established Southside businesses.

"I live there. I experience on a daily basis some of the needs in the area," he said. "That's the last little piece that makes it a community."

The store will sell a variety of products -- everything from Frosted Flakes to free-range chicken, Cummings said. It also will feature an attached wine shop and 125-seat cafe. The project is expected to create about 40 jobs.

Kim White, president of downtown nonprofit development group River City Co., said the area has wanted a grocer for a long time.

"I'm hoping it will have so much success we'll have others come in where we have food deserts," she said. "When you have local people who are committed to reinvesting in the community and they have the 'stick-to-it-iveness,' it says a lot."

White said the area has reached a critical mass where it can support a grocery store. For example, Craftworks recently moved its headquarters and more than 100 employees to Main Street, and many commuters who take Interstate 24 drive past the location every day.

"We're a great intercept location for those buyers," Cummings said. "Our location is a confluence of different routes in and out of town."

But convincing local banks of the plan's value proved an insurmountable task. Cummings and his business partners struggled for years looking for someone to back their project, finally finding support at a Durham, N.C., bank specializing in small-business loans.

"The fact that we had to go to Durham to find a lender is disappointing," Cummings said. "We were not getting any traction with local banks, which was really disappointing for us. It's a deal that was both good on paper and good for the community."

But after this grocer, White said she expects more and more projects will come to the area.

"We've spent years working on Main Street," she said. "I think it's just now starting to hit its stride."

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