1 year after forced relocation, some former Monon Square tenants face new challenges, uncertain futures


Union Brewing Co. owner Nathan Doyle knew it wouldn’t be easy moving his business to a new spot, especially since relocating wasn’t his choice.

The pub was one of several businesses still operating in Monon Square when the aging shopping center on the northwest corner of Range Line Road and City Center Drive closed in mid-September 2022 for demolition to make way for a higher density mixed-use redevelopment project.

Now, the former Monon Square site sits empty while Doyle adjusts to operating in what he described as a less-visible building that also is likely to be redeveloped in the not-too-distant future. But that’s not his only concern.

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The former Monon Square site sits vacant between demolition of the shopping center and construction of a mixed-use development. (Photo by Ann Marie Shambaugh)

Since moving, Doyle said Carmel Redevelopment Commission officials – who previously helped connect him with the building owner of his new location at 202 Gradle Dr. – have left him on his own, forcing him to pay for an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalk connecting to the Monon Greenway to be permitted to open an outdoor patio space and refusing to allow him to display an exterior Union Brewing sign that hung on the Monon Square building, among other issues.

“It just seems completely unnecessary to make this small business incur those costs when this is all going to be torn out (for redevelopment) anyway,” Doyle said. “(It has cost) just shy of $250,000 moving a super-successful business to a less-successful location. It’s hard to expect a small business that has less than 10 employees to be able to incur something like that and still survive.”

Aaron Vaughn, owner of Versed Skateboard Shop at 10567 N. College Ave., said he also felt city officials offered “empty promises” to assist businesses forced out of Monon Square. He said the previous owner of Monon Square – who sold the center to the CRC for $15 million in 2018 – also owns the building where he relocated and offered the space when the previous tenant left. Vaughn said he loves the new location, which has better visibility on an intersection corner than his former site.

Vaughn previously operated his shop, then known as Minus Skateboard, at Monon Square from February 2019 to September 2022. He said it’s becoming increasingly difficult for small business owners to find affordable space in Carmel.

“I feel like anywhere you go, it’s not actually small businesses. It’s these multimillion-dollar companies that are not super-corporate but they’re not a small business like us, grassroots,” Vaughn said. “It seems like a lot of the small businesses are getting driven out of Carmel.”

CRC Director Henry Mestetsky said the city allowed Monon Square tenants to stay in the building for below-market, month-to-month rates for years; hired a broker to assist in business relocations; and “did its best to ensure that the vast majority of the businesses transitioned to other locations in Carmel.” He said 15 former Monon Square tenants are operating in other locations in the city.

“Ultimately, the city does a lot for its small businesses. Our redevelopment areas such as City Center, Midtown and the Arts & Design District are filled with thriving locally owned, non-large-chain independent businesses that pay market rents in these high-desirability areas,” Mestetsky said. “We appreciate the unique character that our local merchants bring to our city. While there are challenges associated with a growing city, we try to draw attention to these vendors through community events and other programming.”

Dr. Hillary Hushower, owner of Rangeline Chiropractic, said the CRC was “very helpful” in allowing the business to relocate before its lease expired and assisted in finding a new site. Hushower purchased the former Chipotle building on Keystone Way in Merchants’ Square in late 2019 and began operating there in 2020.

“We love the (new) space,” Hushower said. “I wish that we could stay Rangeline Chiropractic on Range Line Road, but most people understand that we didn’t want to switch the name after being in the community for so many years.”

However, Hushower said that her business was in a unique position compared to many other small businesses facing forced relocation.

“I don’t think it’s easy for small businesses,” she said. “We were just lucky to be able to purchase a building, but I wouldn’t say that’s the norm for small businesses. So, I can see why they’re having such a hard time.”

Like Doyle at Union Brewing, Vaughn said he expects the site of his new location to eventually be redeveloped. But he plans for his shop to remain in Carmel as long as possible.

“I really do hope for the sake of all the actual small businesses in Carmel that the city does start to take some sort of interest in wanting to keep us in Carmel,” Vaughn said. “(Small businesses are) what Carmel was built off of.”

Doyle said Union Brewing moved into its new spot with another relocation in mind, purchasing a cooler housed in a shipping container so it can someday be moved again. Originally, he had hoped to return to the same spot, but now he’s not even sure he will be able to remain in Carmel.

“The hope was always that we’d be able to move back to the old space,” he said. “It’s just a vacant, empty lot to this day, so those hopes are sliding away.”