Urban Market serving groceries to downtown Reno
September 29, 2017
Thanks to the vision of Denise Barcomb, downtown Reno has a grocery and marketplace to call its own.
Working in the commercial real estate industry for Ticor Title, Barcomb had the opportunity to tour Third Street Flats, the new multifamily apartment complex that was remodeled out of the ruins of the old Kings Inn.
During the tour, the developers showcased three retail spaces that would be available for lease. Barcomb immediately had an impetus of an "urban market" concept in one of the spaces.
Now that vision is a reality as Barcomb and her husband, Dale, opened "THE" Urban Market located on the first floor of the Third Street Flats building at 303 W. Third St., Suite 120.
The 2,780-square-foot store is a hybrid model: part-grocery store, part convenience store and part social hangout. The store is designed so residents of the neighborhood can grab groceries, a cup of coffee or fountain drink and cook their own meal on site. In the back is "The Beer Cave" stocked with various alcoholic drinks.
The Barcombs intend for Urban Market to be a downtown neighborhood social center for business or nonprofit groups, sports fans or small groups of friends. Big-screen TVs hang from the ceiling so customers can watch TV while shopping or sitting in rest areas.
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"We will program the TV so that, say, when a UNR football or basketball game is on the air, people can gather and watch it," Denise Barcomb said. "We don't want to be a full-on restaurant or bar, but have some of the elements you will see in those places."
The other space will include a community bulletin board. Denise Barcomb envisions several other ideas, such as a book exchange program within the store or contacting business and nonprofit groups to gauge interest in hosting events at the market.
"What we've found when we've talked to a lot of the people around here, they grew up in places where they could pick up food, meet with their neighbors," Dale Barcomb said. "It's that personal touch that I think a lot of people want to get back to."
The Barcombs have owned 7-Eleven franchises in Reno and Carson City. When the idea of moving into Third Street Flats came about, they considered opening one of the convenience stores in the space. However, 7-Eleven balked at the couple's request, saying the neighborhood around Third Street Flats didn't fit into its demographics template for a new convenience store.
Undeterred, they set forth plans for their own mom-and-pop store concept. Denise Barcomb used her experience in commercial real estate to conduct all the necessary market research on the retail concept. The couple secured a Small Business Administration loan, which came in handy when the market's tenant improvements went over budget, offsetting some of those costs.
The Barcombs, along with some of their friends and colleagues, handled virtually all of those renovations from the floor tiling to painting. Even during the scorching summer months, they worked without air conditioning.
"Doing all that work during the summer was pretty miserable for everyone," Dale Barcombs said.
While they do offer national brands, they have partnered with several local vendors to sell product on their shelves. They want to give the consumer plenty of choices.
"We want to be very cost competitive," Denise Barcomb said. "People can get a loaf of bread priced at $3, we will do that. If they want a $7 loaf of bread, they can get that too."
THE Urban Market currently employs 10 people — referred to as "UMbassadors." However, if public demand is such, they extend store hours and add staff.
Downtown Reno was once home to a Mayfair supermarket before the Circus Circus and Silver Legacy resorts were built. Other grocery store concepts have been proposed for downtown in years past, including big-box retailers or local entrepreneurs, but nothing else came to fruition.
Shannon Dobbs, co-founder and president of On Common Ground in Reno, said the problem is that large retail grocery outlets are mandated that they can't go into an area where 40 percent of the population is at or below the poverty level, such as downtown Reno.
Dobbs started On Common Ground with his wife, Michelle, as a nonprofit to connect and educate more people with healthier food options.
"More access points for fresh food is a terrific thing to address; a big need in our community," Dobbs said in an email. "On Common Ground applauds THE Urban Market planners for incorporating community food needs into their location designs. Lack of one-stop-shopping capabilities that only dedicated community groceries can accommodate is the biggest single barrier to healthy eating, and creates a logistics nightmare for families lacking transportation options."
Steve H. Hinckley, CEO and managing partner of LandCap Investment Partners, LLC and owner of Third Street Flats, indicated that THE Urban Market was a welcome addition to the residential complex.
"We're very happy to have them as one of our tenants," Hinckley said in a voicemail response to NNBW. "We believe a community store is just the start of revitalizing that part of downtown Reno."
The Barcombs are very confident THE Urban Market will be a hit with residents, and the couple has tossed around a host of ideas to enhance its services in the future.
They discussed starting some type of grocery meal delivery service, among other ideas.
"The opportunities are endless for what we can do," Denise Barcomb said.