Construction is set to get underway on a grocery store on the near northeast side of Indianapolis, a poverty-stricken area that is considered a food desert. Officials recently broken ground on the Indy Fresh Market, a collaborative effort led by Bloomington-based Cook Medical Inc. The medical device maker committed earlier this year to help open a grocery store in the same neighborhood where it is building a manufacturing plant.

In an interview with Business of Health reporter Kylie Veleta, Cook Medical President Pete Yonkman explained how the unique business arrangement was created.

“You don’t usually see medical device companies and grocery stores in the same business plan. But as we were planning the manufacturing site, we talked to some of the community members. And just in conversation, it started coming up, ’We don’t have a place to go, we don’t have a grocery store,” explained Yonkman.

The market is being built near 38th street and Sheridan Avenue, an area of high unemployment and poverty. It will sit adjacent to the new Cook Medical/Goodwill Commercial Services facility, which is also under construction in the neighborhood.

The new store will be operated by two neighborhood entrepreneurs, Michael McFarland and Marckus Williams.

“We met these two amazing entrepreneurs who live in the community who wanted to build a grocery store. So it just came together,” said Yonkman. “We’re not grocery store operators. But we have these two entrepreneurs who are really passionate about it. It just made sense.”

Using a lease-to-own model, the intent is that McFarland and Williams will eventually own the real estate in addition to the grocery store operations.

“We want to help build business to build generational wealth. We want to do something that’s going to help expand this community and lift up the community,” said Yonkman.

Yonkman says Cook will build the structure and donate the land. Other project stakeholders are investing in equipment for the store.

Both the manufacturing plant and supermarket are expected to open early next year.