Marsh grocery store closing in Hamilton leaves void

Officials ‘cautiously optimistic’ on future of Marsh storefront.

Hamilton’s Marsh Supermarket is likely to find a replacement, but it needs to be one that will be distinct enough to be a draw.

That’s what city and business officials say about the store at at 1500 Plaza Dr. just off Millville Avenue, which is set to close Saturday, July 8, and is among 18 locations that are closing and holding liquidation sales.

Area residents said they would miss the grocer, which is set to close 17 other Marsh locations in Indiana later this month.

“It’s just sad for the small town store to close,” said Rebecca Wheeler. “We just live a few blocks over, so it’s convenient when we need to run up here and get something really quick for dinner.”

Not so convenient are other full-fledged grocers more than two miles away such as Kroger and Walmart.

MORE: Grocer buys 15 Marsh stores, including Middletown, Eaton stores

Tom McCall, of Fairfield, said he became “very familiar with Marsh” while going to school in Yorktown, Ind., where Marsh has a warehouse.

“They’ve been really great stores for a long time,” McCall said. “I’m just sad to see them go. I always thought they were just as good as Kroger store.”

The Hamilton location of Marsh was built in 1967, according to the Butler County Auditor’s Office.

Bill Mense, of Hamilton, said he’s been a loyal shopper of the Millville Avenue location since 1980 and was sad to see it go.

“I like the smaller stores,” he said. “I don’t want to go through the big stores where everything is at one end of the store to the other end and that was one of the things that was pleasant about shopping at Marsh. It was just a fun place to go, the people knew you and when people know you, they’re willing to help you out.”

MORE: New owner of Marsh groceries calls Middletown ‘a good fit

Mense said he hopes another grocery store fills the void left by Marsh’s closing, but Dan Bates, the executive director of the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, said any tenant that replaces Marsh “has to be a draw.”

“Whatever that is it’s going to have be something that either the people want that they don’t already have or something that has kind of a twist on it to make it survive,” he said. “If you have a right thing to repurpose with I think that could be a very viable location for something. I’m not sure it’s a grocery store.”

Jody Gunderson, Hamilton’s economic development director said the city never likes to see a retail store close in any location within Hamilton.

“With the fierce competition among brick and mortar stores and now the competition from on-line retailers, consumers are beginning to be impacted by the physical locations of their traditional retail stores,” Gunderson said.

A 2009 Miami University and the Butler County OSU Extension Office study based on the 2000 census found that 27,936 people in Hamilton, roughly 46 percent of the population, lived in food deserts.

MORE: ‘Food deserts’ predominant in Butler County

A food desert, as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is an urban neighborhood or rural town “without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options.”

Despite the possibility of Marsh’s closing exacerbating the situation, Gunderson remained positive about the store’s potential draw.

“I believe the convenience of shopping at a traditional grocery store for this area will change in the short term, but the location has a strong consumer base that should be apparent and attractive to other retailers,” he said.

City officials are “cautiously optimistic” that the storefront will be reutilized by another business, Gunderson said.

“Of course, our preference would be for this space to be used to continue to provide residents of this area with access to food and other staples of everyday life,” he said.

MORE: Middletown grocery store owners walking away after 30 years

Marsh closed 19 stores in May and put 44 locations up for sale after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

Prices are marked down at the Hamilton location between 30 percent to 50 percent and the vast majority of items remaining are non-perishable ones.

Not all Marsh locations are closing. Generative Growth II LLC, a privately-held Findlay based company, purchased 15 Marsh Supermarkets in Ohio and Indiana earlier this month, including stores located at 621 N. University Blvd. in Middletown; 223 Aukerman in Eaton; and 982 N. Market in Troy.

They’ll be managed by Fresh Encounter Inc., which operates grocery stores under the banners of Great Scot, Community Markets, King Saver, Chief and Sack n’ Save.

MORE: 5 things customers say they miss most about Brown’s Deli in Hamilton

Bates said the challenge of a grocery store these days is “you either have to be big or you have to be so small that it is truly (the right size) just to stop and pick up something real quick.”

He said he is unsure the store’s closing would have any wide-range impact on the perception of the city’s business community in the midst of numerous positive developments.

“There’s so much going on in Hamilton right now,” he said. “With that location, I think that it served a certain section of town and I don’t know if it was ever embraced enough for them to actually stay in business.”

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