Lee & Associates’ Courtney: The grocers, restaurants keep flocking to Indianapolis

Whole Foods has been one of the most active grocers in the Indianapolis area.

Whole Foods has been one of the most active grocers in the Indianapolis area.

by Dan Rafter

People like to eat, whether the economy is soaring or struggling. Just look at Indianapolis.

Grocers and restaurateurs are announcing new shops in the city on a seemingly daily basis. And both are providing a boost to Indianapolis’ rebounding retail market.

The best news? The brokers working in this city say that the retail resurgence in Indianapolis — and especially the boom in grocers and new restaurants — is far from a short-lived trend.

Scot Courtney

Scot Courtney

“There was, years ago, a concern that Indianapolis was overbuilt from a grocery standpoint. But that was a long time ago,” said Scot Courtney, president of the Indianapolis office of Lee & Associates. “Ten years have come and gone since that was the case. In real estate terms, that’s an eternity. Now we’re getting newer concepts in Indianapolis that have never been present in the city. They’re looking at it as a good opportunity to expand their brands and reach. And the people here are ready for it. They’re looking for something different and better.”

It makes sense for grocers and restaurateurs to target Indianapolis for new locations. The city today features a vibrant downtown, one that is attracting new residents who want to live an urban lifestyle in which they can walk to restaurants, entertainment, parks and public transportation.

At the same time, Indianapolis has bounced back nicely from the economic downturn, Courtney said.

“We were hit a little hard in the downturn because we have a lot of businesses tied to finance and real estate. But we have recovered really well,” Courtney said. “We have a diversified economy. That gets overplayed, but in our case it is true. Our job growth has picked up. We are getting back to where it was before 2008. We have a very healthy economy today. We also have a low cost of living. A lot of our success comes down to a high qualif of life at a low cost of living.”

Courtney said that grocers such as Whole Foods are looking at new locations today in Indianapolis. Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, a grocery startup based in Phoenix, plans to open three stories in Indianapolis this summer. Courtney also says that the Kroger grocery chain is an active one in the city and its suburbs.

The restaurant market here is just as active, Courtney said.

“I wouldn’t say it’s an explosion, but it’s as close to one as you can get,” Courtney said. “This is something that’s happened in the last five years. In the wake of the recession, restaurant activity was minimal. Now consumers are spending again. Now there is growth in almost every segment of the restaurant market. Fast-casual has especially been hot. But also local restaurant groups are expanding. Someone who has 30 to 40 different units, but mixed across several different restaurant types, is typical, too, of someone who is expanding in our area.”

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