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Double 8 Foods

Double 8 Foods provides a vital link to fresh foods for residents of the Near Northside of Indianapolis. Some might be surprised to find out that it is a locally owned family business, and is operated by the relatives of Zoltan Weisz, who was the first grocery store owner in the state to hire an African American store manager.

The store at 46th and College was recently renovated to display large picture windows at the entrance:

Last Wednesday, I sat down with the current President Isaiah Kuperstein, the great nephew of Mr. Weisz.

How long have you operated Double 8?

Mr. Kuperstein: A year after Mr Weisz died, so about 8 or 9 years now.

What does Double 8 mean?

The first store opened on August 8th.  Also, it’s our wedding anniversary.

Do you use local produce?

Indiana Cantaloupes and other products when they are in season.  We are in touch with urban gardeners and would like to feature more of them.

You mentioned starting gardens and composting on the phone.  Talk a little more about that.

We will grow cabbage, green beans, tomatoes, and cabbage sprouts, which is a delicacy.  This year they have been impossible to find in the United States.  A cabbage sprout is what is left behind after you chop off the cabbage head.  This will be at 2 stores, the one on Fairfield Avenue and the one on Illinois Street.  We also will begin a composting program.

Any plans for expansion?

In this economic climate, you can never be sure.  But our eyes are open.

How many customers per day?

In the thousands.

Are there any competitors?

There used to be more.  Safeway and Kroger are still around.

Are you from Indianapolis originally?

No.  I’ve lived all over the east coast: Pittsburgh, Baltimore, New York where I attended Columbia University, and Washington D.C.  But I like it here.  Indianapolis is a nice place, a good place to raise a family.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

We would like to get the word out to get more of our customers to bring reusable bags.  Not just for the environment, but also because it is a cost to us.  This is getting better, though.

We’re also looking to add a rain garden around the Fairlfield Avenue store to clean the building’s runoff.

I’m personally involved with the Mapleton Fall Creek Neighborhood Association.  The Midtown Loves Local people are big supporters of us as well.

11 Responses to “ “Double 8 Foods”

  1. Its cool that they provide fresh food to areas of Indianapolis that would otherwise be a food desert, where the only nearby food options would be fast food and other unhealthy items.

  2. This is a great example of how local business owners contribute to the community rather than treating them merely as consumers.

  3. mike says:

    Maybe they could draw more people if they actually cleaned up their stores, spruced up their look, and treated their customers better. I live within a block of the 38th and Illinois street one and never go in there because the first few times I did, the customers and staff were rude, there was a trail of ants going onto one of the shelves, and their ‘fresh’ food and meat looked like something that you’d find from a street vendor in chinatown without it ever being refridgerated. Appearance is a lot in customers’ eyes these days.

  4. Shane says:

    I like the updated of the Double 8 on College. It opens the building up, and they didn’t alter the retro-cool appearence. I will admit that I’ve never been inside though. It’s nice to hear of another local business with “green” initiatives.

  5. Terry says:

    Okay, I moved to Butler-Tarkington last year from the near west side. I live about four blocks from the 39th and Illinois location. At my old house we had the lo-bill/marsh hometown market in Eagledale on Lafayette road and the Haughville Kroger on Michigan Street and King Avenue, so I thought I was comfortable shopping in downscale groceries.

    However, I was wrong. When I went in to the Double 8 on Illinois the staff wasn’t just rude, it was hostile. At check out the cashier actually threw my money to the floor as opposed to handing me my change. The store was filthy and smelled bad. Their “produce” was shrink-wrapped on styrofoam, and a large percentage of it was visibly rotten.

    So I just figured Double 8 was an urban leach, exploiting the working class while providing substandard, nutritionally lacking food items. I was about to embark on a letter writing campaign to plead Marsh to buy their locations and turn them into lo-bills, which at the very least are clean.

    But then on-line I see they’re active in the community, they have a twitter and they all talk the right line about “food oasis” and such… but that’s such a disconnect from my personal experience…

    What gives? You mean to tell me so/bro or butler/tark couldn’t support a halfway decent grocery store? Or am I too hard on double8?

    • I only know of the 46th and College store, which serves as their flagship. I actually was pretty impressed by their produce selection on my last visit a year or so ago.

      I think it could be productive to point out their deficiencies. Solely judging by their office headquarters, I’m guessing they are not making a ton of money off of their customers. So hopefully they will be responsive to requests you make.

  6. Tyson Domer says:

    Yes, the Double 8 stores are in all the right places. My view is that it’s easier for me to work with a local business owner to make my existing Double 8 store what I want it to be rather than working to attract a national chain grocer. We’ve been working with Isaiah on the rain garden project at the Fairfield & Central store – no, the rain garden doesn’t affect the “in-store experience” but it might help to get more people into the store (along with the on-site RecycleIndy container) which will help it to remain viable. Once inside you’ll find friendly regular staff, decent fresh produce, and a store manager willing to carry items upon request – like Grape Nuts. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about Double 8 over the years, but I still think the neighborhood grocery stores are an invaluable resource that deserves to be bolstered. Positive change takes time and dedication; neither the stores nor the neighborhoods they’re located in will change overnight.

  7. Antonia Caldwell says:

    I will always remember the store at 46th and College. My great-grandfather and I would walk to the store everyday when it used to be 7-11. I remember when I was a little girl always looking at the details of the store and wondering when the store was first build, and what it was like back then. It’s exciting to now see it’s history. Thank You

  8. Please mop the floors and stop selling rotten food. That would go a long way.

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