Hamilton couple Stephen and Sheri Jackson want to give downtown Hamilton access to healthy, affordable food and grocery options, and after over a year of discussions, plan to open Jackson Market and Deli on the street-level floor of 150 High St. in early 2015.
“The premise is to provide Hamilton with the staples for a healthy lifestyle,” said Sheri Jackson.
The couple aim to bring their two backgrounds together — Stephen Jackson’s family has owned stores in Hamilton for several decades, and Sheri Jackson has 20 years of restaurant and food industry experience — to create a 3,000-square-foot market that young professionals, senior citizens, and everyone in between can benefit from.
Jackson Market and Deli will supply freshly prepared deli sandwiches and salads, coffee, baked goods, and local organic produce from Hamilton Urban Garden Systems, said Sheri Jackson. But the focus will be on specialty diet items like you would see on the shelves of a Trader Joe’s or a Whole Foods, including gluten-free and vegan options.
“Right now, you have to drive to Jungle Jim’s to buy (vegetarian salad dish) tabbouleh,” Sheri Jackson said. The store will also stock grocery items, over-the-counter medication and cigarettes, but no lottery tickets or drug paraphernalia, such as rolling papers.
“We want this to be a store where everyone feels safe,” she said.
Since the nonprofit Consortium for Ongoing Reinvestment Efforts (CORE) Fund purchased the former Elder Beerman building in 2013, executive director Mike Dingeldein has envisioned the building’s future as a complex of offices, grocery stores, and urban living.
It’s been Sheri Jackson’s dream for a long time to run a restaurant or market, she said, but the first step to a physical market came when the couple was walking downtown in August 2013 and surveyed the old department store, empty since 2009. They reached out to Dingeldein with their idea to open a health-oriented market for people who don’t have time to drive to Kroger or Meijer for their grocery needs.
“His eyes just lit up,” Stephen Jackson said, smiling.
Dingeldein called the Jacksons’ market a “home run” for downtown Hamilton. The CORE Fund is hoping to sign several leases for space in the former Elder Beerman by Jan. 1, with the Jacksons and with Kettering Health Network to open a Joslin Diabetes Center at Fort Hamilton Hospital.
“Joslin (Diabetes Center) does diet education, and they can’t get over the fact that they will have a grocery store focused on healthy foods in the same building,” he said.
The CORE Fund plans to renovate the front façade of the building on High Street around to the Second Street door in early 2015 ahead of the units’ openings, Dingeldein said.
Fitton Center for the Creative Arts Education Coordinator Jennifer Acus-Smith said that she and husband Stephen Smith are excited for the vegetarian and specialty options coming downtown.
“Being a vegetarian can be challenging in this area…we love to cook and often have to head to Trader Joe’s (in Cincinnati) or Jungle Jim’s (in Fairfield) to find what we need,” she said. “It would be so great to find some of those things right here in Hamilton and support a small business at the same time!”
Both Jacksons emphasized their desire for the market to be an active part of the Hamilton community. They plan to hire two employees, preferably middle-aged with experience who have had trouble finding a job, to help run the store, and to be open from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday to accommodate early risers and late workers.
Sheri Jackson envisions selling “concert bags” with a beach towel, one or two water bottles, and small snacks or sandwiches for RiversEdge Amphitheatre attendees to bring with them to summer shows, and a planned atrium with seating outside of their storefront in the building could become a downtown meeting place.
“We want to be part of the revitalization,” she said.