It’s rare for a ceremonial ribbon-cutting to attract many people aside from those directly involved in the venture, but one held Friday in downtown Mobile drew enough onlookers to pack a supermarket — and that’s exactly what they did, as Greer’s opened its new St. Louis Market.
Its location, three blocks north of Cathedral Square, makes it the latest attraction on St. Louis Street, a corridor that has seen explosive redevelopment over the last few years. How quickly have things changed? The market’s craft beer shelves hold cans from Braided River and Old Majestic, two breweries that didn’t exist back in July 2019, when ground was broken on the Greer’s project. Now both operate just a few blocks to the west along St. Louis St.
The market’s site and its upscale design and wares are tailored not only for downtown office workers but for a downtown residential population that has expanded by leaps and bounds in recent years, thanks to major new developments such as the Meridian at the Port complex as well as the redevelopment of historic buildings into condos and lofts.
Such a supermarket has long been seen as a major egg in the chicken-and-egg challenge of supporting downtown residential growth, and Mayor Sandy Stimpson on Friday called it “transformative.”
“When you think back six or seven years ago what St. Louis Street looked like, this will absolutely be a game-changer,” he said. “It’s a dream come true for many people.”
Stimpson also praised the Greer family for the “almost unheard-of” accomplishment of maintaining family ownership of a business into the fifth generation. Greer’s, founded in 1916 in Mobile by Autry Greer, now operates about 30 supermarkets in Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, some of which feature a partnership with Ace Hardware.
“We love Mobile, we appreciate the local support that you give all the local businesses, not just Greer’s,” said company president Jackie Greer. “It’s special to us. It is so needed in today’s business environment.”
Greer’s, founded in 1916 in Mobile by Autry Greer, operates about 30 supermarkets in Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, some of which feature a partnership with Ace Hardware. The new store is an all-new format. Prominent features include a large deli with a big selection of ready-to eat items, a café area and an open rooftop deck likely to become a popular spot when summer fades into fall.
The new store is part of a larger plan that developer Bob Isakson and Lafayette Land Co. have announced for the intersection of St. Louis and Jackson streets. Isakson said Friday that the next piece of the overall St. Louis Place project will be a building housing a liquor store and an Ace Hardware on an adjacent corner. After that, on another corner, will come a new building housing a mix of apartments and retail space.
The two-year process to renovate the Greer’s building and open the supermarket has been “epic,” Isakson said. But he said the time has allowed optimistic predictions for downtown residential space to play out.
“It’s now proven,” he said. “All the projections are now happening. Before, they were projections, two years ago — you know, that you could get this kind of rent, we could get this kind of occupancy. Now all those rents are actually happening and the occupancy is 98% across the board. Anywhere that’s been occupied for any period of time, is 98%.”
Isakson said he doesn’t think young professionals are driving the demand. “The majority of the people coming down here are empty-nesters,” he said.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “It’s as strong a rental market as any where in the United States.”