The Apple Street Market

39 thoughts on “The Apple Street Market”

  1. I live here and feel I’m pretty tuned in, but I have to be honest—this was the first I’ve heard about “The Apple Street Market,” although I am familiar with similar scenarios in other Cincy neighborhoods. Didn’t realize you sold off the Northside property. If you find yourself in the area again, though, please reach out and let’s grab a beer.

    1. Will do. I’m still very fond of Cincy and would consider buying property there again, but with the understanding that anything that involves interacting with the authorities is out of the question. If you’re ever in San Francisco you have a place to crash.

  2. I live here and feel I’m pretty tuned in, but I have to be honest—this was the first I’ve heard about “The Apple Street Market,” although I am familiar with similar scenarios in other Cincy neighborhoods. Didn’t realize you sold off the Northside property. If you find yourself in the area again, though, please reach out and let’s grab a beer.

    1. Interesting article. Sounds like lots of people who love the free market and hate the evil Nanny State decided to artificially constrain other people’s options using government edicts to preserve what they already have… Kind of like a lot of places in California.

  3. A sad tale. Here in Brooklyn, older neighborhoods were built with corner shops. Aside from the “main streets,” these were rezoned residential only in 1961, when the goal was to survive by becoming a second rate suburb rather than a Great City.

    But for some reason they decided to grandfather the corner shops. So in R5 and above (pre-auto neighborhoods) what had corner commercial, it is allowed to be reused as corner commercial. And generally is. Inertia worked in our favor.

  4. I live in another Cincinnati city neighborhood that experimented with an urban market concept in the early 00’s. I can’t find any information online about why it failed, but my memory is that the people behind the concept promised to subsidize it over a longer period of time, and reneged on that after about one year (at least, that’s what one of the vendors — who has a small and thriving urban grocery store in Findlay Market and lives in my neighborhood — told me).

    It was also likely a concept ahead of its time, demographically and economically speaking, appealing as it did to people with more disposable income (like me). We were still several years away from the neighborhood renaissance that has made my community one of the top places people want to move to within Cincy.

    The Ridge Market ( concept? Take an old grocery store and refurbish it to hold individual businesses — a suburban and smaller version of Findlay Market ( In its heyday, there was a wine store, fresh pasta shop, prepared foods, a branch of one of the most popular bakeries in town, a deli, and a small grocery store offering some packaged foods, organic fruits and veggies and bulk items. I **loved** it and still miss it. All I had to is take the bus from work one bus stop further north, do my shopping, and walk home. I was able to handle about 90% of my shopping needs there.

    There’s another opportunity to create a 2.0 version of this market today, but given the shifting financial landscape (and the building’s owner), my guess is that it won’t happen. Apple Market (and the Clifton Market, just up Ludlow Avenue from Northside), are cautionary tales.

    1. This is a concept that’s only a head of its time in a place like Cincinnati which sometimes acts like its decades behind everywhere else :(. There are plenty of neighborhood markets in larger cities that seem to work just fine.

  5. I *thought* I recognized Northside from those first few pictures! When I was exploring Northside after reading about it here, that’s the house I parked in front of. Disappointing to hear about Northside’s issues. Ah well.

  6. I grew up just North of Cincinnati and my sister was born there, I think I was four or five, we were raised on a farm near Troy, my Dad was a pilot for Frigidaire after the War and the farm was his dream, driving the Ford tractor with a Miller Highlife in his hand. I believed this to be a perfect world for a boy and it was, but then as the world has revealed itself in the many years since, it all seem like a dream within a dream within a dream. We have progressed our self right into this mess.

    1. The idea of “progress” (that is so forced upon everything and everyone in this country) is largely a lie. There is change over time, although it tends to constricted by endless requirements of controlling conformity (“two steps forward, three steps back”). Generally speaking, in spite of some nice things here and there, conformity is being pushed harder and harder.

  7. It would be fun to see what would happen with a “zoning-free” zone in a Rust Belt city. Take a square mile, and throw the floodgates open to renovators, redevelopers, and flippers. The only limits being a 40-foot height ceiling or the insertion of heavy industry. Some of the “shophouses” may come back, not necessarily as shops but as home businesses of a different nature. The Apple market would happen but not necessarily as planned. There might be a collective restaurant staffed by a different family each night of the week, hawking different food.

    1. Zoning is only one kind of control over land use. Houston famously has no zoning, but it looks exactly like New Jersey or Orlando, or Minneapolis. Banks only finance a narrow range of properties. Insurance companies won’t cover anything that doesn’t fit into one of their particular boxes. Private HOAs micromanage absolutely everything. The fire marshal, the ADA, OSHA, environmental restrictions, historic review boards, “Think of the children!”… There’s no limit to what stops anything even slightly different from happening anywhere.

      1. Things can’t really get better until there are major legal reforms. I’m starting to finally realize that all these zoning regulations and “We can’t because….” from public officials are really the means they use to line their pockets by handing projects to big developers and connected people. Everything is an insider’s game, and we’re not insiders.

        1. I know enough public officials to have a more nuanced understanding of the situation. The officials themselves tend not to “line their pockets” personally. It’s more like they have obligations as part of their job description to hit certain numbers for the larger agency. A hippy grocery or a crappy home addition doesn’t meet the minimum requirements. A $15,000,000 building makes lots of important people happy.

          1. Those public officials also own homes and are very aware that their ability to constrain development will enable the old law of supply and demand to enrich themselves personally. They are also very involved in drafting what goes into their job description and so are believers in what they are doing. I’m quite cynical about these people having met enough of them myself. A sure way to becoming very, very affluent over the course of a career is to become a senior civil little tin god (errr, I mean servant). The pension and other benefits available when you’ve retired in your 50s will put you ahead financially of all but a handful of tech workers and their stock options.

              1. Bryce and TD,

                I’m going to strenuously disagree with your assertions. I have interacted with many public sector professional planners/regulators and your conception of the entire group is grossly incorrect at best and professionally slanderous as worst.

                Perhaps you have dealt with specific individuals that create this conception in your mind, but, as a group, the planners are typically just doing the job they are required to do by their employer (elected officials). Many do try to propose change when possible, but ultimately they don’t have the final say.

                Now on the topic of this article, often the inertia of a place and it’s legacy of regulatory environment can ‘hurt’ ambition, but maybe that’s because the ambitions(s) was too big for the capacity of the ambitious person/group. Plus, the efforts of shoestring nonprofits that want internal decision making equity often becomes untenable. ‘Business success by committee’ is a hard nut to crack.

                And to be clear I’m a professional city planner (rising from entry level to Dept head) that has only worked for five different municipalities in two states over the last 18 years.

                1. I have a masters degree in city planning and worked in the field for quite some time. My impression is that city planners are trying to undo the mess created by regulations enacted decades ago, but are prevented from doing so by politics.

                  1. larry – that’s what I’m trying to do in my individual professional way. I actually had two specific recent tries at correcting the ‘old way’ of development land regulation.

                    1. Successfully expanded our downtown parking district minimum parking regulations exemption. Meaning we doubled the amount of land in our CBD that no longer is required to provide on-site parking by our zoning code.

                    2. Unsuccessfully removed an overly burdensome maximum building footprint regulation in our CBD that basically outlaws redevelopment projects in that would be a positive benefit to the downtown area and also, through negative unintended consequences, makes several of our existing beloved historic/historical buildings technically non-conforming.

                    Us professional city planners can only recommend, but we don’t decide.

                    That’s why I say, at professional conferences, that more of us need to be in elected positions and/or becoming the developers.

                    1. I was in charge of a project to update and simplify NYC’s commercial use and parking regulations in the late 1990s. Thousands of hours of work. Five technical reports. A final report written, and proposal prepared. Then they said — never mind. I left.

                      Twenty! years later my old boss introduced me to some young planners at a party, including the person who was replacing HIS boss who had led the prior attempt. Starting with all my old work, this time they were going to fix the mess.

                      Then they said … never mind. I assume they are available.

                      I did run for (or rather against) state legislature, as a protest candidate, because they are even worse.

                2. In California every municipality is given a housing quota and required to have an inventory of sites identified to accommodate that quota. Their general plans might have tables listing them. Go out and inspect them sometime. Most are either unbuildable or in other uses that someone would need to first dismantle but selected to ensure that the quotas are not met. It’s a corrupt game full of corrupt players. And you can see it in the results. Housing production has not declined while population grew over the past few decades because builders don’t want to build anymore. They are not being built because carefully constructed plans are created to ensure that little is built. It’s really rather clever in a Machiavellian sort of way, but it is still corrupt. I have no respect for your occupation.

                  1. Well, I can’t really argue with the details of your assertion(s), so all I have to say is that I continue to disagree with your opinion about the profession.

      2. Minneapolis has a surprising amount of mixed-use. Or at least South Minneapolis does. My office is one of the old grocery stores on a streetcar corner, there’s still an occupied apartment above it. There are little nodes of old, retail-on-bottom buildings in all the near south neighborhoods, and also things built as houses that have office or retail extensions added on to them.

        I think, like the poster above said about New York, most of it was grandfathered in through different zoning and ownership changes. And it’s pretty immune to bank policies because a lot of it is clearly owner-constructed or self-financed. Most of it couldn’t be replaced as new-built if something happened to the old building, though.

        1. I have friends in Minneapolis who are intimate with the zoning regs, buildings codes, and political process. The much talked about changes of late are necessary but insufficient. Allowing single family homes to become four-plexes is only one piece of a very complex puzzle.

          Minneapolis is expensive. Not California expensive, but spendier than most other Midwestern cities of its size. I suppose ambitious people gravitate toward places with more opportunity for advancement, but the average school teacher, nurse, or tradesman might be better off in a third tier location.

  8. Also in this rising market with cheap money, the cheap FHA mortgage loans help the rehabber to exit whole.

    I’m counting on that right now for the mid century ranch I’ve been rehabbing. 🙂

  9. Ah, the food cooperative story. As aging 60s and 70s “crunchy” hippies (the original gentrifiers) lost their neighborhood groceries, they turned to the co-op solution.

    In the 60s and 70s, these were big in university towns and were the primary sources of “natural/organic” and bulk foods.

    Disclaimer: I helped start one that actually opened and functioned for 7 years, and invested considerable time and money, so I know well the part of the story you laid out.

    But the second part is economic and demographic. There is a sweet spot at the edge of gentrification where just enough upper-middle-income folks share a corner with lower income folks. In that corner market, the $1 bread and $2 milk and cheap bananas are subsidized by the margins in the deli and the upscale goods and the bulk bins and the kombucha. So there’s a bit of affluent liberal “save the world” going on.

    As to the economics: in the time that Apple Street has been trying to open, the market has shifted. Kroger and Target and Walmart now have aisles and aisles of the very same goods, for sale at the wholesale price the small grocer pays. So the mobile upper-middle-income customers go there. That killed the coop I helped to start.

    It is not surprising that the nascent coop has turned into an upscale deli/cafe/wine bar. That’s the niche that’s left.

      1. As does Wegman’s, the eastern regional chain headquartered in upstate New York.

        The cooperative markets were proof of concept for astute Big Grocers.

    1. My favorite grocery store is something like that (though it’s not a co-op and I sure don’t see any $1 bread or cheap bananas). Local neighborhood stores don’t have the volume to make a go of it at the same margins as supermarkets, so they have to have much higher margins, ergo, higher prices. A walkable neighborhood grocery with quality products is something of a luxury. I wonder if the Apple Street Market ever had a business plan that showed how the place could at least break even at prices the surrounding households could afford to pay.

  10. We tried one of those crowd-funded urban markets in downtown Phoenix a while back. I gave a pretty good chunk of change because I thought it was a great idea. Eventually somebody in charge decided they would rather run a wine bar than a crappy urban market. It’s been through a bunch of iterations, but now at least there is an outdoor public market in the parking lot once a week.

    Bottom line is don’t give money to these things if you have strong feelings about what the final product should look like, because you will not get a refund.

    1. Northside does have a pretty good farmers market in season that does most of what I would need in terms of veggies, good bread, etc for about half the year. CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) options exist. And for the middle class there’s Amazon and a drive to the big box stores for everything else. Of course, I don’t live there… so it’s not my problem to solve anymore.

      I gave $1,000 to the Apple Street Market. I don’t regret it in any way. But I’ll never do it again. I do give money to similar organizations now, but it’s always a small token to show “grass roots support” so the groups can get that next grant, that next loan, or that next angel investor. $50 is my upper limit.

  11. I shop at Costco & Trader Joe’s because it’s cheaper and more convenient and has decent product that aligns with my values, more or less. However, when I lost my job & car at the same time a few years ago, I discovered the pallets of cheap pasta at the Grocery Outlet within walking distance. At the same time, I also discovered “resilience”, aka prepping for liberals.

    I love Farmers Markets and CSAs and I grow some food and such but it’s still very supplemental. And I’m an early adopter on the spectrum. There is a nation of soccer moms that would balk at paying what I do for baby spinach.

    Ultimately, pain, practicality and social pressure from said moms will drive change, not regulations. Perhaps one day JIT supermarket logistics will be viewed as so backwards that there will be a retro hipster revival of the wasteful supermarket ambiance in a nightclub setting, complete with florescent lighting and those automatic produce sprayers 🙂

    1. It does look good. In a rising market these debt fueled renovations can work even with all the administrative friction. But in a stagnant or declining market (think 2008) there are serious consequences. I walked away from the Northside property unscathed. I look back on the experience as “tuition” where I learned my limits and what not to do in the future. I skinned my knee. But I didn’t break my leg. That’s all for the better.

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