Downtown BR to get full-service grocery store

Matherne’s to open first supermarket in downtown BR in nearly 50 years

A Matherne’s Supermarket is set to open in fall 2014 at the former site of the Capital One Bank at Third and Main streets, making it the first full-service grocery store in downtown Baton Rouge in nearly 50 years.

Dyke Nelson, the architect who owns the building with David Weinstein, said Matherne’s will be the ground-floor tenant for the mixed-use project he is developing on the site, which will be called 440 on Third.

Nelson, who spoke at a Downtown Development District meeting Tuesday, said 440 on Third will consist of 65 apartments, split between one- and two-bedroom units, and 65,000 square feet of commercial and office space.

“The one thing I’ve heard about downtown is that there is not a grocery store available, so it’s rewarding to do this,” Nelson said. “This not only helps our project, but the others going on around downtown.”

Tony Matherne Jr., a co-owner of the supermarket, said the downtown location will be a unique concept, but will still have the things that his family’s store is known for: daily plate lunches of fried chicken and catfish, a full-service deli and a selection of fine wines, liquors and craft beers.

Matherne’s has been open for 30 years. The chain, which is supplied by Associated Grocers, has locations at 7580 Bluebonnet Blvd. and 7355 Highland Road in Baton Rouge and stores in LaPlace and Paulina.

“We have clean, friendly, inviting stores and we look forward to bringing that experience downtown,” Matherne said. The new store will be 15,000 square feet —slightly smaller than the Highland location and about half the size of the Bluebonnet store —and have about 40 employees.

Associated Grocers approached Nelson and Weinstein shortly after they bought 440 on Third in June about putting a store in the development. “AG was looking at different stores, it wasn’t until later that Matherne’s was brought in,” Nelson said.

Associated Grocers then approached Matherne’s about opening a location at Third and Main. “They felt it would be a good fit, because we were a pretty strong name in Baton Rouge,” Matherne said. “We looked at the site and got pretty excited about it. We saw it as a viable option.”

Despite a smaller size than the other Baton Rouge locations, Matherne said the downtown store won’t be very different. Right now, the plan is to have the same specials as the Bluebonnet and Highland stores.

Plans are to have 114 public parking spots available at 440 on Third, with 28 set aside for Matherne’s.

The cost of developing 440 on Third is being offset by federal and state historic tax credits and New Market Tax Credits. Nelson would not disclose the cost of the project.

Buquet & LeBlanc is serving as the general contractor for 440 on Third. Construction should begin before the end of the year.

The store will not only serve the people who live and work downtown, but residents of nearby neighborhoods, such as MidCity, Ogden Park, Old South Baton Rouge and Standard Heights, said Davis Rhorer, executive director of the Downtown Development District.

There are two neighborhood grocery stores that operate downtown: the long-standing Spanish Town Market and the Downtown Grocery, which opened earlier this year at Third and Florida streets. Those stores carry such staples as bread, milk and butter but have limited selections of meat, fresh vegetables and fruit.

Attracting a full-service grocery store had been a longtime goal of downtown supporters. The crowd at the DDD meeting broke out in applause when Matherne announced the store opening.

Rhorer said there hasn’t been a grocery store downtown in nearly 50 years, when the National Food Store on Government Street closed. A McDonald’s has since been built on that site.

Grocery stores moving into the urban core of cities is a recent trend. Rouses Market opened a 40,000-square-foot store in New Orleans’ Central Business District two years ago.

People who live and work downtown said they were pleased to hear about the grocery store.

Pat Tessier, who lives in Spanish Town, said getting a supermarket means he won’t have to go to Bet-R by the Perkins Road Overpass or Albertson’s on Government Street to buy fresh meat. “I think this is a good idea,” he said.

Susan Jeansonne, who works downtown for the state, said she will probably buy items such as milk and bread at Matherne’s, rather than going to neighborhood groceries or convenience stores because the grocery store will have better prices.

“Matherne’s is a good store,” said Sandra Helton, who also works downtown in the state-owned Galvez Building. “It will be good to have a place to get fruit and vegetables without going into a little store or restaurant.”

Units in 440 on Third will rent for just under $1,000 a month for a 650-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment and just under $1,500 for a two-bedroom unit between 950 to 1,000 square feet. The costs include utilities, Nelson said.

Jonathan Walker, an agent with Maestri-Murrell Commercial Real Estate who is marketing 440 on Third to commercial tenants, said about 35,000 square feet of office space remain on the second, eighth and ninth floors of the building.

“There’s been a lot of interest in the building,” Walker said. “But we’re not breaking it up into smaller office spaces. We’re pretty choosy. We want people to take large chunks, at least a full floor.”

The goal is to bring in a “marquee tenant” that would want a penthouse office suite with an outdoor deck and a view of the Mississippi River. “Getting a grocery store is huge for this,” Walker said. “It’s a cool draw.”

The rest of 440 on Third should be completed by Dec. 15, 2014, with apartment tenants set to move in by early 2015.