City officials announced Wednesday that Milestone Ventures, which is
developing The Mercantile, signed an agreement to bring Marion-based Horner’s Butcher Block to
the former Cox Supermarket site in downtown Alexandria.
Known for its meat market, Horner’s also operates in Fairmount.
“It’s a good thing for Alexandria and the downtown area,” said Alexandria Mayor Ron Richardson. “I
think it’s really the perfect fit … I think it gives that hometown feel because of being in Marion and
being in Fairmount.”
Chuck Heintzelman, principal of Indianapolis-based Milestone Ventures, said a new supermarket was
a requirement under a rental housing tax credit from the Indiana Housing and Community
Development Authority to transform the multi-use property, which includes affordable housing.
“The grocery piece was a critical piece of making the entire project successful,” he said. Since the
closing of the Cox store in August 2014, residents have relied on Harvest Market, Family Dollar and
Dollar General for their immediate grocery needs. Officials representing Dollar General recently
announced interest in opening a second store on the south side of the city.
Many Alexandria residents also make periodic trips to Anderson and Elwood to shop at Walmart,
Meijer, Pay Less, Marsh and Aldi. However, Marsh, which at one time had considered opening a
store at the Cox site, recently closed its Anderson stores and has sold the ones in Pendleton and
Horner’s, which signed a 10-year lease, is expected to open in the late fall and will hire about 30 fulltime
and part-time employees.
Verlin Horner, owner of Horner’s Butcher Block, said he decided to bring a competitively priced
fullservice grocery to Alexandria “I feel there is a real potential for sales,” he said. ‘In some ways, it
was a little bit too good to be true, almost.”
Among the enticements, Horner said, was the lowincome housing that is part of the project, 20
apartments above the store and six units in the three duplexes on the west end of the parking lot.
“We’ll have a little bit of a captive audience that way,” he said.
Horner said he was surprised when he heard that Cox Supermarket, which had been open for 78 years,
was closing because his vendors had told him it was one of their best independent stores.
“I wouldn’t have been interested with the way things were, but with the developer of these
apartments, they have made a really attractive offer to me,” he said. “The cost to be there is very
reasonable compared to many properties if you were leasing.”
Horner said he also was attracted to the site because of the economic development efforts of the city,
including The Mercantile project, the business park on the north side and a possible business
incubator at the glove factory site across the street from Cox.
“It sounds like the town is doing some positive things to prepare for future growth,” he said.
At a time when other grocery chains are merging or folding, Horner’s is expanding, especially in
smaller communities with few grocery options. “We’re just trying to fill a void,” he said.
Horner, who has more than 40 years’ experience in meat cutting and retail grocery operations, said his
stores are on a decent financial footing and that he doesn’t have the same needs as a Walmart or Pay
Harvest Market would be Horner’s main competitor. Dollar General also plans to add a second store
to the south side of the city, but that doesn’t concern Horner.
Horner said when Meijer came to Marion in 2009, he wasn’t sure what to expect.
“We had 20 percent growth the year they came to town, which was unheard of,” he said.
City Council President Jeff Bryan, who also is executive director of the Alexandria Monroe Chamber
of Commerce, said he was thrilled a new store finally has signed to fill the space vacated by Cox’s.
“I think this is going to be great for Alexandria. Horner’s has a great representation in Grant County,”
Bryan said having a new supermarket might put Alexandria back on the map.
“I think with Horner’s and The Mercantile project will attract other businesses to the downtown area,”
he said. “We’re finally making that turn, and we’re going to have some positive things happening here
in Alexandria over the next couple of years.”