Double 8 closures shock neighbors, create “food deserts”

Double 8 Food announced they are closing all of their Indianapolis locations. (WISH Photo/Kevin Stinson)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — After almost 60 years, an Indianapolis grocery store is closing its doors.

Closed signs are posted on Double 8 Food after they announced their closure. (WISH Photo/Kevin Stinson)
Closed signs are posted on Double 8 Food after they announced their closure. (WISH Photo/Kevin Stinson)

Double 8 Foods announced on Thursday they have closed all of their stores — 3902 North Illinois Street, 555 Fairfield Avenue, 2947 North Sherman Drive and 2907 North Dr. Martin Luther King Street.

The grocer opened in 1957 and has served Indianapolis’ north side ever since.

The company posted the following statement on their website Thursday:

We are very sad to let everyone know that we have Closed All of our Stores today, Thursday, July 23, 2015.

It was a difficult and agonizing decision to make after operating for 58 years.  Unfortunately, our declining revenues was too much of a challenge to overcome.

We are very proud to have served our neighborhoods throughout our existence and are grateful for the many good memories we’ve shared with neighbors, friends, and customers.  Most of all we appreciate the phenomenal and steadfast dedicated work of our employees.  Thank you one and all for your support.”

The owner said around 40 people lost their jobs. But several neighborhoods lost the one place where they could find fresh food.

Plastered on the door at the Double 8 Foods at the corner of 29th and MLK Drive is a painful sign. The store is closed.

“This is going to hurt us,” said customer James Wingo.

The corner store his neighborhood depended on is no longer in business.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Rhonda Stidham, who was hoping to stop inside and grab some fish to cook for dinner. “This is my little, quick stop on the way home. Small stores, good prices especially on their meat, their seafood.”

The news caught her and Wingo off guard. “Didn’t tell us anything, just all of a sudden it was gone,” he told another customer that just walked up to the door.

An explanation for why sales were down isn’t easy figure out for owner Isaiah Kuperstien.

“I don’t think it’s just the competition. I think there are other factors involved, I’m sure there are whether it’s the economy or I think in our area, maybe the jobs are not completely there yet,” said Kuperstein.

He said they tried to sell the business but with no buyers, closing was their only option.

“We’re devastated that we had to do this for the neighborhood and I understand how difficult it will be for them,” he said.

The difficult comes since Double 8’s were the one place neighbors near 29th and MLK could walk to in order to find fresh meat and produce. Losing that option turns the area into a “food desert,” meaning a lack of walkable access to a grocery store.

Last year, a report found that Indianapolis ranked number one in having food deserts. It found that less than 5 percent of the population was within a five minute walking distance of a grocery store. In New York City, 72 percent of the population had a grocery store within that same distance.

“A lot of people around here are on foot you know, and they’re carrying their bags in hands,” said Stidham. “This is really going to affect them, it really is. In a negative, negative way.”

The writing might have been on the wall, but Double 8’s weren’t ready to read it.

“What we going to do now?” asked Wingo.

Luckily, Carina McDowell has some ideas. She’s the director of the Food Access Committee for the Northwest Area Quality of Life.  She wants Indy to start a “Corner Store Initiative,” where people are given incentives to open mom-and-pop shops in underserved areas, and get people the fresh food they need.

“That’s real meat, not the bologna, not the canned meats, to carry healthy foods,” she said. “Other cities have corner store initiatives and everybody has a corner store you could walk to within a couple of blocks of home. We need that.”

McDowell’s organization is also working on setting up mobile markets on the northwest side. They’d also like to start a co-op grocery store.

That idea helped people living on the east side when Pogue’s Run Grocer opened a few years ago. Residents, even lawmakers considered it a success in stopping a food desert in that area.

 

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