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Small businesses in City Market working to remain open during pandemic

Numerous businesses there have closed or moved out
City Market
Posted at 7:36 PM, Jan 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-26 19:36:48-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Small businesses in Central Indiana continue to deal with the economic impact of the pandemic, and those inside the Indianapolis City Market are being hit especially hard.

With many major employers still having staff work from home, there has been a major decrease in foot traffic. We also reported on safety issues over the summer, Market Street is closed for construction, and more trouble could be on the way as the Marion County Court System gets ready to move from the City County Building to the new Criminal Justice Complex three miles away.

“It’s been challenging you know with the pandemic a lot of these offices that we rely on for daily service have started working from home,” said Adam Odgaard, owner of Poke Guru in City Market.

He said sales are down more than 60% right now. “It is very tough. It makes the outlook look bleak, but we as a team just kept showing up every day and worked around it… just had that optimistic viewpoint that this would one day turn around and then we could, in some way or fashion, start to get back to what we were used to doing,” said Odgaard.

The owner of another business in City Market, The Pantry, says he’s only getting around 15-30 customers per day, well under roughly 100 per day he said he saw before the pandemic. He tells us if things don’t change, he may have to close and find a new location.

We’ve seen numerous businesses over the past few months do just that. "We are not the only entity that has been affected by the pandemic. Hospitality and restaurants worldwide have been sucked into this vortex of stagnant sales and reduced foot traffic, so some of that was to be expected,” said Keisha Gray, Executive Director at City Market.

Gray was hired back in November 2020. She told WRTV City Market is working with a non-profit organization called SCORE, which will provide free, volunteer business mentors.

She said she will continue to research ways to ease the financial burden on these small business owners.
“All of the merchants have had their rent paid through the last quarter of last year and that was a big help to a lot of them in order to stay open, and we are certainly researching other grants and funding opportunities,” said Gray.

Odgaard just opened a second Poke Guru location over at The Garage in the new Bottleworks Development downtown. He tells WRTV he had planned to open that location well before the pandemic hit. He’s hoping to keep his City Market location open in addition to the new one at The Garage.

We asked the director about a more long-term plan for keeping merchants and attracting new ones to City Market. “I think I’m still in a learning mode right now. There is still a lot to learn about the operations here and what the merchants need,” said Gray. “A couple of months on the job we are not going to have a plan that is five years out, but that is something we are working on."

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