Clifton Market to breathe new life into neighborhood

CINCINNATI -- Nearly six years after Keller’s IGA closed its doors, Clifton is finally about to get its grocery store back.

Clifton Market, which will occupy the same building along Ludlow Avenue that once housed Keller’s, is set to open sometime this month. Though an exact opening date has not been announced, founding board member Marilyn Hyland is excited that the store’s opening is imminent.

“Nobody’s more anxious to say what the opening date is than we are,” she said.

Despite not being open for business yet, Clifton Market is abustle with activity. Construction workers are busy putting the finishing touches to the interior of the store, and store manager Keith Brock is working to staff and train the team members that will keep the shelves stocked and provide the store’s guests with a “wow experience.”

Brock understands the importance of the task with which he’s been charged. A veteran of several grocery management jobs, Brock knows what grocery stores mean to the communities they serve.

“They’re the anchor of any community,” Brock said. “That’s usually where people see each other, they meet, they chitchat, they talk.

“When this one closed down, most of the businesses along through the business district lost about 40 percent of their sales. With having this back, it’s going to help everyone in this neighborhood, along with being that community anchor again.”

Clifton residents and business owners have made it clear that they want their grocery store back. Clifton Market incorporated as a cooperative in January 2014, allowing it to sell shares and accept loans and gifts from its owners. To date, Clifton Market has more than 1,400 share owners, and has raised more than $1.8 million in shares, loans and gifts.

The co-op’s board used that money as equity to get bank loans for construction, equipment, inventory and initial staffing.

“It’s really a community barn-raising,” said Marilyn Hyland, a founding board member and Clifton Market’s director of marketing. “It’s putting our money toward a common goal, which is putting the grocery back in the grocery store.”

Although it’s under the same roof that once housed Keller’s IGA, Clifton Market will have a distinctly different and comparably upscale feel to it. The shelves, carts and cold cases are all new, as are the all-LED lights.

Room at the front of the 23,000 square-foot space has been set aside for a cafe, and customers can sit down to eat made-from-scratch salads and soups or enjoy drinks purchased at a nearby juice bar. Other amenities include an artisan bread and pastry island, a draught beer growler-fill station, a Brewery District-themed beer cave, a salad bar and a hot bar.

The product selection will be between 30 and 40 percent organic, and at least 10 percent of the offerings in each of the store’s departments will be sourced locally, Brock said.

Brock and company are still working toward getting the store fully staffed, with 50 employees already hired. There are still about 30 positions open. Volunteers and share owners have helped chip in with getting the store ready, too.

“Clifton needs this so much,” said Emma Crisp, a share owner, as she cleaned the windows at the store’s main entrance. “This is going to be the hub.”

Clifton Market expects to attract about 15,000 visitors per week, which should be a boost for the neighboring businesses, Hyland said.

“We expect to cross-promote at every opportunity with the shops and restaurants on Ludlow to have a thriving grocery store, but also a thriving Clifton business district on Ludlow,” Hyland said. 

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