Downtown Chattanooga's Bingo's Market in Patten Towers closes

Downtown Chattanooga's Bingo's Market in Patten Towers closes

June 6th, 2018 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Manager Tara Williams, left, talks with Patten Towers resident Willie "Fish" Whaley in the Bingo's Market late last year. The market closed at the end of last month.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

“I do think it's a model that has promise. We want the store to grow. The current and potential new owners, everyone, wants it to stay.”
Abby Garrison of Causeway

Bingo's Market, which opened inside Patten Towers late last year to bring healthy food choices to the downtown Chattanooga building's poor and elderly, has closed.

Abby Garrison, executive director at Causeway, said a planned ownership change of the tower has dragged on and the market needed more space to bolster sales.

"The current ownership is in limbo land," she said. "They didn't want to commit to additional space if they're selling. We're in a holding pattern."

With the uncertainty, the store's operators decided to pull back in terms of outreach and marketing and sales fell off the past couple of months, Garrison added.

She said she's hopeful that once there's a change in owners, a permanent agreement can be worked out and the market can reopen.

"I do think it's a model that has promise," Garrison said. "We want the store to grow. The current and potential new owners, everyone, wants it to stay."

Causeway, a Chattanooga nonprofit that helps citizens solve the city's challenges, last fall joined with the YMCA, the Enterprise Center, located in the Edney Building across East 11th Street from Patten Towers, and the structure's management to open the market.

The market was viewed as a pilot project to make healthy food options more accessible to Patten Towers residents, many of whom are elderly and disabled.

It also was meant to bridge the gap between the residents, many of whom live on less than $500 a month and don't have cars, and the tech-savvy entrepreneurs in the Edney.

According to Causeway, more than 145 people and businesses donated $11,000 to get Bingo's Market started.

In April, a Nashville group announced it's seeking $25 million in bonds to buy and renovate the structure that holds hundreds of low- to moderate-income residents.

Elmington Capital Group is expected to ask a city panel to approve the revenue bonds for Patten Towers, though that hasn't happened yet.

One resident, Renittia Fleming, said Tuesday that she didn't want the market to close.

"I used it," she said. "I'd like to see it come back."

But, Angela Smith said she was a former Patten Towers resident and didn't use the market.

"I never used it," she said. "I just wouldn't."

According to Causeway, the first four months the market saw significant growth in sales and the financials were promising. But, space limits and the uncertainty in building ownership led to less use and a drain on financial resources, it said.

Garrison said that people in the Innovation District downtown were using the market.

"Like any business, you've got to invest to make it work," she added.

In the meantime, the YMCA's Mobile Market has begun visiting Patten Towers on Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3-5 p.m., according to Causeway.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.