Since it opened in 2010, the new incarnation of the Lansing City Market has slowly transitioned from a farmers market that just so happened to also have a bar into a home for the ever-expanding Waterfront Bar & Grill … and a few other shops. Hill’s Home-Cured Cheese, MaMa C’s, For Crêpe Sake, Red’s Smokehouse and Dublin Jerky have been all but eclipsed as Waterfront has spread its footprint, growing from a glorified tasting room tucked into the southwest corner of the building into a 90-seat urban tavern with a kickass downtown view.
But starting this week, work will begin on a new business coming to the City Market that will return the focus to produce and Michigan-made retail goods. The asyet-unnamed venture is spearheaded by entrepreneur Igor Jurkovic.
“This is the most prime property in the city, and no one’s doing anything with it,” said Jurkovi , standing in the empty corner that was formerly home to a massive produce stand. “What I’m doing will bring new life to the market.”
Jurkovic said his convenience store will carry Michigan-made produce, wines, beers, liquor and canned products, such as salsa and pickles. He also plans to stock light groceries, including some everyday items. Jurkovi said the spike in downtown denizens has refueled a need for basic necessities.
“I know people who live in the (adjacent) Marketplace Apartments, and they tell me there’s nowhere to buy milk or eggs downtown,” Jurkovic says. “There are a lot of people moving down here right now. I saw a gap that needed to be filled and I’m filling it.”
Jurkovic also owns Mediteran Café and Catering in the atrium of the Capital National Building several blocks over. It is a spinoff of the now-closed Restaurant Mediteran, which he owned and his parents operated until they decided to retire earlier this year.
“I could have kept the restaurant going, but I wouldn’t have been able to dedicate as much time to it as my parents did,” Jurkovic says. “And a lot of people loved it. I just didn’t want to be (regarded as) the person who ruined (it).”
Jurkovic also opened the two Leaf salad bars in East Lansing and Okemos. He sold them to his business partner last spring, around the same time he opened the café. He said he just wanted to be able to focus on “his own thing,” a nebulous concept that coalesced into the City Market retail space. Over the years, Jurkovic has made a science of driving to Eastern Market in Detroit every week to buy the ingredients that went into his parents’ dishes and the items that stocked his salad bars. He also began supplying Waterfront with fresh produce after the nearby fruit and vegetable stands started to disappear, which was the genesis for his idea to move into the City Market.
“This fits into our goal of making the Lansing City Market a destination place,” said Scott Keith, president and CEO of the Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Authority, which manages the City Market. “This isn’t seen as a famers market anymore, which is why the (River Town Adventures) kayaking works and the live music works. It’s becoming more of a hangout spot. And Igor’s continuing to help it evolve.”
Waterfront owner Scott Simmons, meanwhile, said he plans to move the bar’s kitchen out into the middle of the market, creating an open-air kitchen with fryers and allowing the actual bar to expand all the way to the market’s southern entrance. He also intends to move the dining area all the way up to the market’s eastern entrance, which bisects the building. Together, Simmons’ and Jurkovic’s businesses will share half of the building, about 2,500 square feet.
“The concept has really changed since the City Market was developed,” Jurkovi said. “There are a lot of farmers markets around Lansing that provided some good competition, and it was hard (for the City Market) to keep up. I think by adding the (convenience store) and switching the focus to entertainment, it’s going to start bringing people back in. And I think if it does well, we may be able to re-attract (produce) vendors as well.”
Jurkovic’s store has a projected opening date of Nov. 1, so a name will be picked out sooner than later.
“I like the name Iggy’s, but I’m still deciding,” Jurkovic said. “I’ve got a month to think about it.”