Since 2014, when the area around 38th and Illinois streets was designated a “Great Place” as part of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation’s Great Places 2020 initiative, entrepreneurs have stepped up to invest in the community.
NATIONAL – 215 E. 38th Street
While not within the Great Places focus area, renewed activity in Maple Crossing spurred developers Ed Sherman and Bill Oesterle to bring back the luster of this former bank building that features a restrained Art Deco design. During a recent walking tour, Sherman said, “Our first mission was to save the building and make something that the neighborhood could be proud of.” Fortunately, the building was solid, with a recent roof and reliable heating system. “The building is Indiana limestone—this is the place to go if the weather’s bad,” he added. The partners both live in Midtown and made a point of attending neighborhood meetings, where they asked people what they wanted to see on the site—and what they didn’t want to see. Based on feedback, they opted to rezone the site as mixed use (MU-2), which they successfully pursued after securing support from adjacent neighborhoods. “We held a series of open houses and by and large, people said they want this space to be a restaurant space,” he said. Neither partner knew the restaurant industry so they sought a local partner who was familiar with the community. They found the perfect fit with Mapleton-Fall Creek resident Neal Brown. “We’re also talking about an artisan market that would go along with the restaurant,” Sherman said. The focus of the market would be on grab-and-go foods like cured meats and fresh cheese. The massive basement serves as office space for the partners and includes a community room for use by neighborhood and nonprofit groups. Target date for the grand opening is September. Sherman says, “It’s important to us for this to work because it’s our neighborhood.”
Chris Tatlock, owner of Under the Sun Discount Market, also lives in Midtown and is excited by the opportunities of his store’s new location. “The Concord connects a lot of neighborhoods, and to be able to serve multiple neighborhoods with one location is particularly exciting for us,” he said. Tatlock hopes his store can help fill a niche. “We exist to help be a solution toward food deserts in our city,” he said. “We purchase food through closeouts and liquidations that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Just because we purchase food in that way, in all reality the food is 100 percent consumable and the consumer would never know the difference.” Tatlock said his sourcing methods allow him to keep costs low. “Our model is to help our customers extend their grocery budget, and that’s why we chose Maple Crossing.” He also likes the challenge of retrofitting one of the oldest mixed-used buildings in the area. “We’re excited to give new life to the building,” he said.
The many lives of this building include its original purpose as an auto dealership and most recently a grocery store. Adaptive reuse of the structure is under way, and the first tenant is Midtown’s newest brewpub, Happy Brewing. According to owner Gabe Soukup, head brewer Dave Bellar has six house beers on tap. “We only have six on tap because people have drunk us out of our supplies,” he said recently. In addition to brewing locally, Soukup is bringing in live music. “We’re trying to support local artists,” he said. The Milton T. Blues Band plays every Friday and a rotating list of singer/songwriters take the stage on Saturdays. “I’m a big blues and jazz guy, so that’s what we’re hosting,” Soukup said. “We want it to be a warm, inviting environment for people to come in, hang out, and relax.” None of that would matter if the beer wasn’t any good. “Dave is a certified beer judge and has been brewing for over 16 years,” Soukup said. Maybe that’s why the first 50 custom mugs he created for his “Mug Club” have already sold out. “The neighborhood has been very supportive,” he said.