Gulch grocery will help define district

Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 11:45pm

The Turnip Truck has arrived in The Gulch.

With a recent lease signing, the natural foods grocery store expects to be running by October. Now, with the addition of the grocery store that started on the bohemian east side, Nashville’s potentially coolest mixed-use district may have shed the “potentially” descriptor.

Turnip Truck Urban Fare will join the established Casablanca Coffee, Yazoo Brewing Co. and BB&T to give the Gulch four key elements — a grocery, café, pub and bank — many place-making experts contend are critical to the long-term stability of clearly defined urban pockets.

Jay Turner, managing director with Gulch master developer MarketStreet Enterprises, has visited many mixed-use urban enclaves nationwide, observing firsthand motor scooterists and bicyclists zipping past shops and pocket parks, and cosmopolitan 20-somethings walking from hipster condos to neighborhood taverns and cafes. He understands the dynamics of vibrant urban places and spaces. Since The Gulch’s emergence in the early 2000s, Turner and MarketStreet business partners Joe Barker and Steve Turner (Jay’s father) have realized the district could theoretically boast of countless cool condos and classy eateries but likely never reach its full potential without the one element that defines any urban district.

“Grocery stores are an integral part of healthy, vibrant communities,” Jay Turner said. “Today they are especially important in urban settings, where traditional neighborhood amenities may have disappeared over time because of suburban sprawl.”

Brian Vanneman, principal with Portland, Ore.-based Leland Consulting Group and an expert on urban retail, said grocery stores are the “anchor tenants” of mixed-use neighborhood retail centers.

“Retail creates ‘urban theater,’ ” he said.

Vanneman said a survey of downtown Houston residents 40 and older revealed grocery shopping was their second favorite leisure activity (following live music). He said Turnip Truck Urban Fare — given its expected contemporary vibe and marketing toward urbane types — could offer “experience retailing” as opposed to “commodity retailing.”

“[Experience] retail sells the housing and office,” said Vanneman, pointing to how Whole Foods and Safeway groceries have helped drive the success of Portland’s Pearl District. “It’s hard to sell high-end condos over a dollar store.”

Turnip Truck owner John Dyke, who opened his Five Points grocery in May 2001, said The Gulch grocery will offer a cafe with indoor and outdoor seating, a hot/cold food bar with items prepared in-house, sandwiches made to order, a full seafood and meat department, a gelato and juice bar, and a large selection of prepared take-out food.

Turnip Truck Urban Fare also will offer a budget-friendly bulk food selection, micro-brewed beers and a health/beauty section, he said.

Turnip Truck Urban Fare will be located at 311 12th Ave. S. in a 1960s-built structure most recently used for industrial purposes.

5 Comments on this post:

By: tomw on 5/17/10 at 4:39

this is exactly what my wife and I had in mind for that space. Good Idea. My only sadness is that the folks across the interstate on 12th ave will not be able to afford the prices and still live in a food desert.

By: 742180 on 5/17/10 at 8:19

tomw, suggest that your friends across the Interstate get educated, become better citizens, get work (and yes work is available), quit making babies, accept responsibility for their own actions, and prehaps they will be able to afford to shop her.

Who's to say that the store will be expensive anyway? Your assumptions are unwarranted. If you had acted on your idea for that space what would your price point have been?

By: BigPapa on 5/17/10 at 9:32

"friends across the Interstate get educated, become better citizens, get work (and yes work is available), quit making babies, accept responsibility for their own actions..."
Nice idea but it'll never happen.

By: localboy on 5/17/10 at 11:06

"Nashville’s potentially coolest mixed-use district may have shed the “potentially” descriptor.'
If you're having to proclaim it, it's so over...

By: shef2 on 5/17/10 at 6:11

Oh, stuff it, you guys.
This is great news-! Yay, Turnip Truck-!