This Indiana Grocery Store Is Giving Formerly Incarcerated People A Second Chance

The Indy Fresh Market will also address food insecurity on the east side of Indianapolis.

A recently opened grocery store in Indiana wants to be more than just another place that sells fresh produce. It wants to give residents a place to gather 鈥 and provide formerly incarcerated people a second chance.

Indy Fresh Market, which had its grand opening this month, will address food insecurity on the east side of Indianapolis, in an area that previously didn鈥檛 have a supermarket for miles. Founder and co-operator Marckus Williams described the area as a food desert where low-income residents struggle to access healthy produce.

鈥淔or five or six miles, there was no place to get food anywhere around here unless it was the Family Dollar or gas stations,鈥 Williams explains. The area was once home to Kroger, Walmart and Safeway, but they鈥檝e all closed in the past several years.

鈥淚t鈥檚 hard out here, and with nothing on the bus line, it鈥檚 pretty much impossible to have healthy options for the residents in the community,鈥 he says.

In creating Indy Fresh Market, it was important to Williams for the grocery store to be a second-chance employer 鈥 a business that actively hires people with criminal records. He knows how important those second chances are; he was once incarcerated himself.

Indy Fresh Market 鈥渨as a second chance for me,鈥 Williams says. 鈥淔or some people, this is their first job.鈥

About 20 of Indy Fresh Market鈥檚 41 workers are second-chance employees, he says. Working at the grocery store provides them with the opportunity to not only improve their own lives but also leave an impact on a community that desperately needs it.

The full-service, 16,772-square-foot grocery store boasts a wide range of products from national brands to produce from local distributors, he says. According to a study from Indiana University鈥檚 Public Policy Institute, the grocery store will bring over $11 million to the community.

And the community has embraced the grocery store, Williams says. 鈥淚t鈥檚 a new staple in the area now,鈥 he says. 鈥淵ou can run into people you haven鈥檛 seen in a while, make connections, reconnections, hugs, smiles all inside.鈥

The Indy Fresh Market deli.
The Indy Fresh Market deli.
Indy Fresh Market

Williams operates the grocery store alongside co-operator Michael McFarland, another native of Indianapolis. The pair are entrepreneurs with experience in this arena, having previously owned a small convenience store together. The grocery store, which has been in development since 2021, was built by the medical device manufacturer Cook Medical, which built a manufacturing location nearby in partnership with Goodwill Commercial Services after realizing how dire the need for food access was in the neighborhood.

With no specific expertise in food retail, Cook Medical worked with McFarland and Williams, who both went through a multiyear training program to prepare for running Indy Fresh Market. The long-term goal is for the duo to own 100% of the business and real estate through a rent-to-own model.

The store was a true community effort, with organizations like IMPACT Central Indiana, United Northeast Community Development Corporation, and neighborhood and city leaders working together to bring Indy Fresh Market to life. The employees, many of them local, have access to Goodwill鈥檚 services, including housing support, legal aid, mental and physical health care, and soft skills training. For some employees, this is their first time seeing this sort of support.

Cameron Barnett is one of those employees. Hired through the grocery store鈥檚 second-chance employee program, the Indianapolis native says working at Indy Fresh Market has been a blessing for him as a single father because finding employment has been difficult.

Currently the manager of the grocery store鈥檚 meat department, Barnett is excited about the opportunity to grow with Indy Fresh Market.

鈥淚t鈥檚 always possible to make a change,鈥 says Barnett, who has been working at the grocery store for two months. 鈥淛ust stay focused on doing what you need to do. God鈥檚 gonna put some people in places for you. And when you get that opportunity, take it and run with it.鈥

Although Indy Fresh Market just opened, Williams already has his eye on expansion. He says he wants to open up grocery stores in nearby cities like Carmel and Greenwood. 鈥淲e want to keep the Black community and other communities fed,鈥 he says.

鈥淐oming to a neighborhood near you, that鈥檚 the goal.鈥


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