It’s been more than 18 months since Carmel’s last grocery store east of Keystone Parkway – O’Malia Food Market – closed its doors, leaving area residents to wonder and speculate about the future of the site.
City councilor Jeff Worrell, whose district includes the site in the Brookshire Village Shoppes retail center, said a developer has a purchase agreement for the shopping center and is working to land a grocery store to anchor it.
Although he declined to name the developer, Worrell said he is a former Simon Property Group employee who recently told him he is still working primarily with grocers to “get this deal done.”
“I’m trying to encourage people not to lose hope. I haven’t lost hope,” Worrell said. “As long as somebody is still willing to carry the ball and fight for us, which this developer is, that’s good news to me. I dread the day my phone rings and he says, ‘We just couldn’t make it happen,’ but that has not occurred.”
Worrell said he’s not surprised or alarmed that a deal hasn’t been reached yet. He said one hurdle has been convincing potential grocery tenants that the closure of O’Malia wasn’t because of its location.
“There was an entity operating that facility for at least the last four years in probably a manner that wasn’t up to the standards of what had been done in all the prior history there,” he said. “Those numbers now haunt us, because if someone looks at the space they look at past performance. So without the ability to explain why the numbers may not be the dollars per square foot that a new operator might be looking for, it takes time to explain and to sell that kind of thing.”
The O’Malia family, which owns Brookshire Village Shoppes, opened the grocery store there in 1982 and operated it until 2001, when it sold its stores to Marsh. Marsh declared bankruptcy in 2017 and closed or sold all of its remaining stores that year.
Worrell said some online rumors have also been a roadblock to development.
“There are people who state things as fact on social media, and it spooks other entities,” he said. “Some of those early ‘facts’ turned out to be absolutely false, and it doesn’t help us when we’re trying to negotiate in good faith with potential operators coming in.”