Urban market coming to downtown Decatur

Jan. 16—The community's desire for a downtown Decatur business selling fresh meat, bread and vegetables will be fulfilled, with two newcomers planning to open a fresh provision market at 609 Bank St. that would also offer dining, a cocktail bar and pizza shop.

Chefs Michael Locascio and Matthew Blair, of Missouri, plan to open 609 Market in a former metal-working shop now owned by Steve Armistead and Yogi Dougher, partners in Stogie Holdings of Nashville. The building is across Bank Street from the Morgan County Archives.

The 5,000-square-foot building will feature a market and dining concept after renovations. Customers will be able to buy fresh vegetables, meat or seafood to take home or dine in. There will be a bar featuring a variety of locally produced craft beers and wines.

"The space for 609 really lends itself to being multi-dimensional," Locascio said. "It's really part restaurant mixed in with deli cooking similar to what you might see at Publix and Star Market. It will be a blended experience."

However, he said the market won't sell pre-packaged items like a bigger grocery store does.

Locascio's specialty after 35 years as a chef is cooking beef and other meat. Even though he has a farm that raises Angus cattle, Blair is a pastry chef. He is the business manager in the partnership.

Kelly Thomas, new Decatur Downtown Redevelopment Authority executive director, said 609 Market will meet a need in the city. She noted downtown hasn't had a grocery store since Lucky's on Sixth Avenue closed in September 2019.

"We need something like this in downtown Decatur," Thomas said. "It fits what we're missing. You really can't get food or basic needs unless you go all of the way to the Walmart (Neighborhood Market) on Sixth Avenue."

Joel McWhorter, of McComm Group, conducted a survey earlier this year for Star Market to gauge interest in a downtown grocery store.

Star Market chose not to come to Decatur, but that fact that 1,449 out of 1,951 respondents said they would use a downtown grocery store daily or weekly aided in the choice of Decatur by Locascio and Blair.

"The survey only solidifies what we want to do," Locascio said. "It says people aren't interested in dry goods. They want all fresh produce and meat and better high-quality items."

Thomas said the urban market concept "is even cooler than your basic grocery store. It's definitely bringing something new and exciting to downtown."

She said Bank Street has two restaurants that specialize in dinner meals, so 609 Market "fills a void" of the missing lunchtime option.

The monthly Food Truck Fridays "have been very, very successful," and they show the need for a lunchtime restaurant in the Old Decatur area, Thomas said.

The market plans to feature produce and meat produced locally. Both men once worked in Alabama, Locascio in Cullman and Blair in Birmingham, so they plan to use those connections to get local products.

Locascio said it's particularly important to stay local because grocery stores and restaurants are having a difficult time getting delivery of products shipped long distance.

Armistead, a Decatur native, and Dougher are heavily involved in the effort to revitalize downtown. Less than a block away and within sight of the new market's front door, the duo is building the luxury McGhee Square town homes between Walnut and Vine streets.

They purchased the Decatur Engravers building in July with plans of using it as an office, but Dougher said at the time they were open to other options.

A mutual friend from Chattanooga then connected Dougher with Locascio and Blair. With the lease of their Springfield, Missouri, restaurant running out this summer, Locascio said they were looking for another market for their urban market and dining concept.

"It really was celestial in the timing," Dougher said.

Locascio and his family are moving to Decatur, and he said they're excited. His wife, Nena, an interior designer, is already eying homes in the city, he added.

"I told one of my daughters, who will be in eighth grade next year, that we are moving to Decatur," Locascio said. "She said, 'Decatur, Georgia?' I said, 'No, Decatur, Alabama,' and she was thrilled to be moving closer to Cullman."

Blair has a family farm in Missouri so he will travel back and forth between the two states.

Locascio said he and Blair plan to have their Missouri restaurant closed by May and then open the new restaurant by June. Dougher said he will use the next four months to prepare the building for its new tenants, including adding a kitchen area.

bayne.hughes@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2432. Twitter @DD_BayneHughes.