A taste of freshness coming to downtown South Bend

Downtown South Bend announced 13 new businesses opened up in September, including Purple Porch Co-op.

The locally grown food cooperative started in 2009 as a way to connect local consumers with local produce. Members and directors of Purple Porch have been operating out of part-time spaces for the past four years. Until now, that is.

Purple Porch purchased a building in the East Bank Village on Hill Street this year. Last Monday, September 30, construction began to transform and rehabilitate the structure into a local market.

General Manager of Purple Porch, Greg Koehler said the market co-op has been working well, but many people interested in participating can’t make it to the Wednesday night and Saturday morning cooperative hours.

“So we decided to increase our accessibility we would be open all the time so we need our own place,” Koehler added.

The location on Hill Street will hopefully grab the attention of visitors to the East Bank and to meet the growing need for healthier food options downtown.

Surrounding South Bend are Indiana farms full of fresh seasonal produce. Coop president, Tama Crisovan describes Purple Porch as a community-centered way to bring consumers in touch with farmers, “It was hard to access that food, it was hard to find it. You had to go and pick the apples yourself, so it was impossible for a lot of people.”

Four words: local, sustainable, transparent and community. Those are the words Crisovan said describes the food cooperative message. She hopes that by opening up a local food option people can invest in the community and get a taste for what’s around them.

According to Aaron Perri, executive director at Downtown South Bend, much of the city’s expansion efforts attempt to replicate and extend the visitor-friendly Michigan Street area.

“The whole vision for the East Bank atmosphere, is that it's a village,” Perri added, “You're seeing that with the townhome development, with things like Circa Art,” and other mixed use property development.

Purple Porch’s move to a permanent location has been in the works for quite some time. Members and directors came up with a business plan to raise enough money through loans and grants to fund exterior and interior renovations.

In Phase I, Purple Porch raised $100,000 through coop member loans as well as a $25,000 grant from DTSB. Phase II, the project’s current phase, consists of an additional $20,000 in member-owner loans, $50,000 credit union loan, $15,000 in donations and $15,000 in Kickstarter loans.

Koehler said the blueprint calls for a produce section, bulk food section, coolers and freezers, regular grocery items and a certified in-house kitchen.

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