Denfeld News

Nov. 20, 2009
Duluth News Tribune

Central Hillside will get its market back
By Andy Greder

When his home-cooked dinner didn’t taste just right, Central Hillside resident Scott Yeazle would hustle to the nearby 4th Street Market and Deli to buy that missing spice. Other times, he’d pop in to buy a hot taco for his wife.

But for about seven months, Yeazle and the rest of the Central Hillside have been without their neighborhood full-service grocery store. It closed in April, but come December, the doors at 102 E. Fourth St. will reopen, showing a remodeled storefront and new management.

“It was very missed in the hillside when it closed,” said Yeazle, an active volunteer in the neighborhood. “I’m excited. I can’t wait for it to open up.”

The Hurlbut-Zeppa Charitable Trust, which owns the property, has signed a lease with father-son pair Tom and Matt Potter, who also operate the Hillside ICO convenience store on Sixth Avenue East and Sixth Street.

“When we were over there showing it or meeting with contractors, people came up to the door and want to buy stuff,” said Keir Johnson, managing agent of the trust. “It’s a neighborhood tradition; it’s a gathering place. It’s a place that anchors the community as well as serving a need for basic groceries and foodstuffs.”

Brendan Hanschen, a community organizer in Central Hillside, said the complexion of the neighborhood changed without the market.

“People would meet up at the market and it gave you the opportunity to talk to your neighbors and meet them,” said Hanschen, neighborhood project coordinator for Neighborhood Housing Services. “There was a nice sense of community there.”

Matt Potter wants the market to return to its place as a destination.

“It’s going to be a really community-driven store,” Potter said. “We think the community really needs it, and that is what we’ve heard from everyone.”

When the market closed in April, Johnson said he had a few serious leads into a new operator. The previous tenants, Deyona and Jamar Kirk, ran the market as Ma and Pop’s 4th Street Market for about three years before filing for bankruptcy this fall.

“A couple of folks realized it was not something they wanted to take on, so you have to find the right people with the right experience and backing,” Johnson said. “It takes time.”

The Potters have a history in retail and in rehabilitating abandoned stores. They operated the Milkhouse on Central Entrance for more than 25 years, and the Hillside ICO was vacant before they reopened the convenience store about nine years ago, Matt Potter said.

“We built a business out of it,” he said. “It’s something that we are proud of and something that gave us confidence going into this.”

The 4th Street Market is undergoing reconstruction to install new flooring, lighting, equipment and countertops, Matt Potter said.

“We want to give it back to the customer and community,” he said.

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