Downtown Battle Creek could soon get a new grocery store and deli.
And it will be owned by the community.
Sprout, a locally produced food delivery and pickup service located in Springfield, is partnering with developers Cody and Caitlynn Newman of Restore 269 to establish a fresh food market and deli in downtown Battle Creek. The enterprise would not only give city residents another option for fresh produce and ready-to-eat foods, but also a stake in its ownership as a cooperative.
“It still feels like this town is on the upswing and things are happening and development is occurring,” said Sprout CEO Jeremy Andrews. “It seems like a good time to get in, versus waiting until all the good real estate is already taken up.”
Food cooperatives are essentially owned by both their employees and the people who shop at them, and some decisions regarding the production and distribution of food are made by members, who typically pay an annual fee for a share in the company. In the United States, the National Cooperative Grocers is a federation comprised of 146 food cooperatives, including 10 in Michigan.
Andrews said he intends for Sprout to hold a majority share in the walk-in market and deli, which would offer grocery pickup through an app, and have dine-in space for grab-and-go foods, comfort foods and plant-based meats, all sourced by local farmers and producers. He would also like to offer local beers on tap and locally produced wine.
“Everybody has a chance to win when you build a local economy and your dollars stay here,” Andrews said. “When you give people the chance to own a piece of the local economy, that helps everyone thrive better and be a part of what they are eating.”
Restore 269 specializes in rehabilitating historic buildings. Cody and Caitlynn Newman purchased the former Ratti Building downtown at 15 Carlyle St. in 2017 and transformed it into The Record Box. The building now includes their wedding and banquet space called The Record Box Loft; Collab BC, where individuals and small companies can rent office space; and Handmap Brewing.
Sprout will additionally be using the Record Box as a distribution and pickup location for its Sprout Box subscription and delivery service in addition to the nonprofit’s Springfield location.
The Newmans say they are excited to help bring the co-op market and deli to where they live, work and play.
“We approached Jeremy and, knowing they are a well-established organization here in the community doing wonderful things, that’s something we want to support and help in whatever their mission is, help bring that to the next phase and bring that to fruition,” Caitlynn said. “Building preservation is really Restore 269’s purpose; historic preservation. But it is also supporting these wonderful community initiatives, keeping things local. And if people want to support it, this is the home team.”
The group is exploring grant opportunities and looking to purchase 3,000 to 4,000-square feet of space, somewhere between Carlyle Street and Capital Avenue, preferably near the Battle Creek River. They cited The Milton apartments and other developments such as New Holland Brewing Co. as motivators for bringing a grocery and deli downtown.
Fresh produce is currently sold downtown at Horrocks Farm Market at 235 Capital Ave. SW or at the Battle Creek Farmer’s Market at Festival Market Square during market season on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Sprout and the Battle Creek YMCA have partnered with K and A Food Mart, located on the outskirts of downtown at 94 North Ave., to offer a fruit and vegetable stand as part of a healthier communities initiative to bring more access to fresh produce to neighborhoods.
Andrews said he is excited to partner with Restore 269 to be a part of the revitalization of downtown Battle Creek.
“Our mission will be to provide affordable, local options, affordable local food and ready-to-go, ready-to-eat grab-and-go, high-quality, fresh and ready-made lunch and dinners for both dine in and carry out,” he said. “We want to provide them with convenience. Walk down the block to get some groceries, get something to eat. Be an added amenity downtown for lunch and dinner.”
First published by Battle Creek Enquirer on September 16, 2020.