Albion welcomes first independent market in decades

Superior Street Mercantile Store

Superior Street Mercantile is open for business, making it the first independent market in this manufacturing town in more than three decades.

The 2,500-square-foot store at 217 S. Superior St., is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week and features more than 120 Michigan-based brands, including a dozen from the greater Albion community. 

Shoppers can pick up the basics like milk, eggs and pasta and choose from a broad selection of locally sourced artisanal products like grass-fed beef from Ferry Farms in Litchfield, Darkhorse Beer from Marshall, Zingerman’s coffee from Ann Arbor, and baked goods and prepared salads from Albion’s own Foundry Bakehouse and Deli.

Superior Street Mercantile features a large produce department with fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables from local suppliers and vendors, and sections dedicated to craft beers, hard cider, and  wine. The deli department has artisanal cheeses, cured meats and a selection of gourmet spreads, nuts and chocolates.

“We want families to know they can come in and pick up something quick for lunch or dinner,” says Caroline Hurteau, project manager of the mercantile, which is owned in part by her family. “We don’t anticipate locals will get everything for their weekly grocery list here, but we know we’ll fill a void with unique specialty items not available within 25 miles of Albion.”

Decades of economic decline affected the region, forcing stores in Albion to move away or close. Empty downtown storefronts replaced once-thriving businesses. Residents were left with four dollar stores and a Family Fare Supermarket for doing their grocery shopping. Many drive between 20 and 25 miles to Jackson or Battle Creek to shop at bigger-named stores such as Target, Kroger and Aldi.

Superior Street Mercantile fills the largest void in downtown Albion, taking up two storefronts of a building that dates back to 1884. The mercantile is also the latest element of the “Big Albion Plan” to come to fruition. Spearheaded by the Albion Reinvestment Corporation (ARC), the plan maps out the revitalization of residential and commercial properties in the downtown commercial district. 

In recent years, the revitalization has attracted new businesses like the award-winning Albion Malleable Brewing Co., Foundry Bakehouse, a Courtyard by Marriott hotel and dozens of newly developed apartments and lofts. With each new business comes new jobs. The mercantile employs a staff of eight, all of whom live within the city limits. 

“Our employees are our greatest ambassadors. Hiring locally is an important element of the town’s growth,” says Joseph Verbeke, general manager of the mercantile, a real estate broker and owner of ACE Real Estate Services.

Verbeke has overseen many of the new commercial and residential projects in Albion through ACE Investment Properties, which is affiliated with his real estate company and in partnership with ARC. The firm shepherded the construction of the mercantile, managed the construction of BrickStreet Lofts (a mixed-use project in downtown Albion) and recently launched Superior Street Lofts. 

“With each new business that opens, the stigma that business can’t survive in Albion lessens a little bit,” says Verbeke. “We know that the success of the mercantile and all the new businesses in town affects the morale of the community and encourages others to visit, spend and invest in the community,” says Verbeke.