Hope on the horizon for Main Street grocery


An Evansville North Main Street staple is on its way out, and neighbors are taking it hard.

City leaders expect Buehler’s IGA to close by the end of the year, leaving countless neighbors in Jacobsville and downtown without a grocery store within walking distance.

It looks like nail in the coffin. But if you ask ECHO Housing, looks can be deceiving.

There may some light at the end of the tunnel for the grocery. Executive Director at ECHO, Stephanie TenBarge has plans in motion to keep something there; it’s just a matter of what and when.

She’s trying to avoid making the neighborhood a “food desert” and to retain some form of business in Jacobsville.

TenBarge says she’s working with IGA’s ownership group, Houchens Industries, to bring a new store concept to Evansville. She hopes the city can find federal funding, buy the building from the owner based in Jasper, rehab it, and lease it back to Houchens, possibly with a smaller selection or fast food.

“Will that happen?” TenBarge says, “I don’t know.”

She says a lot of it depends on the possible sale of the building. She says the owner is asking for more than $1 million. “That’s a lot of money,” TenBarge adds.

“ECHO and the city and even Houchens recognize what a devastating loss this is,” she says.

Bob Ethreidge often walks to the store, like so many others in the area. “It is the only place around here to shop, period.”

TenBarge says there are unique challenges to run a store in a high-poverty area. She says lease disagreements may be forcing the store out.

“They have two dedicated employees that do nothing but drive around picking up shopping carts. That’s probably something unique to this area.”

TenBarge says Houchens Industries is interested in opening a new store, but there is no time frame on when, or if, that may happen.

Local IGA management says they’re waiting for details from corporate. Eyewitness News’ calls to the corporate office weren’t answered.

The question remains, what’s next? Ethridge hopes it has a bite to eat on the other side.

“A lot of people depend on this place,” he says.

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(This story was originally published December 6, 2017)

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