A Fresh Jewel in Midtown Kalamazoo0
Kiar Gamsho and his partner Paul Petros are changing the face of one of Kalamazoo’s most established neighborhoods. In August, they opened their Midtown Fresh Market at 1693 South Westnedge Avenue, at the base of Westnedge Hill near Crosstown Parkway. The grocery partnership is also responsible for the Park Street Market, opened in 2009 as a redevelopment of the old Felpaush store on Kalamazoo’s Northside.
The new business has been growing in popularity, and with good reason. The Market isn’t just your run of the mill basic grocery store with standard store brands and boring departments. Instead, Gamsho says it’s focused on the needs of today’s consumers" especially the college students and millennials in the nearby progressive neighborhoods and staff of Bronson Hospital, right down the street. The store caters to all types of customers" from budget shoppers to shoppers seeking unusual specialty items" hitting top grocery trends like convenience, quality, price, good flavor and good service.
One big surprise at the store is the selection of high-end products and local exclusive brands that Gamsho stocks. Immediately upon entering the store, displays for Kalamazoo Coffee Company and See’s Candies are prominent. The Market also sells Boar’s Head brand meats and cheeses, which are gluten- and nitrate-free.
“There was a lot of hustling on my part to get these brands,” says Gamsho.
Another unique feature of the Market is the Midtown Kitchen. Instead of the worn-out “deli” concept, where customers pick up cold cuts and potato salad, Midtown Fresh Market employs two chefs who thrive on creativity. They have a wide selection of unique take and bake meals, a hot food bar and ready to eat specialties like specially paired charcuterie trays (cheese and sausage trays for those of us who are less sophisticated). There’s a self-serve olive bar, salad bar and sushi bar as well, and catering services are coming soon.
“People don’t want to cook, they want convenience,” says Gamsho. “It’s where grocery stores are going.”
The Market is also becoming well-known for its quality and variety of fresh fish. Sourced from Detroit’s Eastern Market and other their Midwest suppliers with deeply established relationships, Midtown Fresh has the ability to buy the right products at the right time for the best price and best quality. Gamsho describes the seafood department special events as reminiscent of an old-school fishmonger, where the product is laid out in nostalgic chests of ice. Ann Arbor-based Zingerman’s also has a presence at the market, with coffee and cheeses. A pharmacy is set to open in about six months and curbside pickup is on the horizon.
The revamped environment in the store is also intentional. The existing building was taken back to metal beams and rebuilt from there. Gamsho left the original concrete floors, which were polished for the popular industrial look. The graphic and logo script are designed to be eye-catching and modern--the embodiment of what “fresh” looks like in 2018. The building is now energy efficient, utilizing LED lighting, too.
Fresh off the grand opening celebration Oct. 19-21, additional growth is expected. Gamsho knows a grocery store takes two full years to become fully established and he’s prepared for the work.
This location had been idle for several years after the Harding’s Market closed down. Gamsho and his business partners have now completely redeveloped the property into what they are hoping will be a lifestyle center" a true center of service for the neighborhood. Ace Hardware is already open here, and plans are underway for recruiting additional businesses like salons, yoga studios and fast casual restaurants. Improvements to the exterior of the building and parking lot have increased the curb appeal of the corridor to downtown Kalamazoo. The parking lot was once a sea of concrete. The redevelopment added trees and green spaces.
Gamsho and his partners continue to look at communities around Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids for more Market opportunities, providing additional opportunities for our neighborhoods to “have a Fresh day.”