JACKSON, Mich. — The building that used to be Evanoff's Food and Cocktails sits boarded up on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Cortland Street. It's going to look very different.
After years of painstaking work behind the scenes, Andrew Kokas, the new owner, is ready to bring change to a community that he feels has been forgotten by opening a grocery store called Peach Market.
“I hope that our downtown workforce will return to their cubicles work a full 8-hour day and then afterward come over and pick out whatever they want for dinner that night," said Kokas, the CEO of Peach Market.
But, he wants to make sure the people in the surrounding low-income neighborhoods are getting exactly what they need.
“This will be a fresh food oasis for low-income people who can have basic food available to them for their daily lives," said Kokas. "Fruits, vegetables...you know staples we all need."
Kokas ran into problems with a local bank that had run into financial difficulties, so he sought funding from other organizations including the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, which contributed $48,000 for equipment purchases.
"My wife and I who are putting this together we’re not monied people, but, we do have a passion about being able to invigorate our downtown with an urban food market," said Kokas.
Downtown Jackson has been labeled a food desert because it lacks places to buy affordable and fresh food.
“That’s definitely true," said Jackson Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Cory Mays. "You know, we’ve got some amazing stores that, you know, have some smaller items, some really quick things but nothing substantial enough to constitute a grocery store and that’s one of the biggest needs we have in downtown Jackson for quite some time.”
Mays believes that adding the Peach Market will attract more people and potentially more businesses downtown.
“One of the first things you’ll see when it opens up is, it’s going to be really popular. You’ll see a lot of the residents down here, a lot of the workers down here, really excited to have something that they can go to, and I think after that it’s only going to add to the landscape," said Mays.
Plans are for the Peach Market to be open by the fall.