East Race Market opens in downtown South Bend

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- East Race Market opened in downtown South Bend Wednesday, with an official ribbon-cutting set for Thursday. It serves as a full-service grocery store.

"It's really convenient for us because it's halfway in between the south side and downtown, but I know that people that live kind of closer to here have to go farther out," said shopper Amie Dworecki. "So, I think they're really going to appreciate having something here."

East Race Market is owned and operated by David Matthews of Matthews, LLC on the first floor of the 300 East LaSalle apartment building.

Originally planned as a Martin's, Matthews had trouble finding a grocery partner to move in.

"We just couldn't find a grocer to come in and do it for us," Matthews said. "So, then it's like, okay, we're going to have to solve this problem. Let's solve it."

Eventually taking on the task himself.

"The big challenge for a small-format store is how are we price competitive with the big-box retailers?" Matthews said.

Matthews LLC bought shares in a Wisconsin food wholesaler, expanding their market to the Hoosier state, now supplying food for the East Race Market. Indianapolis Fruit is supplying produce, and local vendors can fill in the rest of the gaps.

The store holds about 4,000 items on its shelves but has the capacity to hold roughly 15,000.

Still, the city of South Bend's legal department, which declined to comment, is seeking clawback money after the city granted Matthews five million dollars for the whole development in 2017, and the grocery store still wasn't there by its December 31st, 2022, deadline.

In a statement to ABC57, a spokesperson for the city writes in part quote: "The ongoing litigation can only be resolved by the courts or mutual settlement, not the opinion of a developer."

And the city says Matthews has a delinquent balance of more than $430,000.

For now, Matthews is focusing on the project's success.

"This is a great story of how we took a foreclosed building, a foreclosed parking lot, and now we have a beautiful, brand-new apartment building, mixed-use, room for some office space, and now we've opened a brand-new grocery store on the first floor," Matthews said.

He says as they expand, it could be up to 20% larger than the Trader Joe's on Eddy Street. And shoppers are just happy the store is finally here.

"I have to go past my house to just grab something. So, I thought this was convenient since I work downtown, to just stop here, and not have to go past my house and then come back home," said shopper Ricinda Bromley.

"It's not as easy for a lot of people to go a distance, especially getting healthy food, things that aren't from a gas station or convenience store, so I think it affects people's health in order to conveniently get something to eat," Dworecki said.

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