We read with dismay the recent report about futile attempts to find a grocer to operate the long-vacant Marsh supermarket on Nichol Avenue. Retailers say it’s all in the numbers: not enough auto traffic, not enough residents with similar tastes, and not enough potential profit to warrant the risk of stocking a building that size.

This is a common scenario in cities where “food deserts” are multiplying. Residents without dependable transportation have no access to fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh meats, etc. Customers who have dependable transportation can go to stores with nutritious food, but that siphons off revenue that retailers need to operate in their community.

They say it’s all in the numbers. I wonder, what might happen if we had different numbers?

For example, what if the westside Marsh building were divided in half or in quarters? Each store’s smaller footprint would mean lower overhead expense. One unit could house a compact grocery specializing in fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meats, and a deli. Other units could house retailers we need on the west side, such as a full-service bakery, a florist, and a hardware store.

How much traffic would make such establishments profitable? What inventory mix would attract enough customers? I don’t know. But a capable team of MBAs (or aspiring MBAs) could obtain that information.

Grocers who’ve succeeded with the “everything for everybody” store model say it doesn’t work in communities like West Anderson and Edgewood. Fine. So what model might work here?

Joe Allison, Anderson

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