Mike Martin was traveling with his band, “Mike Martin and The Beautiful Mess,” in Charlotte, North Carolina, when he walked through the doors of their next gig in October 2015.
“I walked in and thought, ‘Are we playing in a grocery store?’” Martin said. “The manager came over and said, ‘We’ll put you in front of the milk tonight. Nobody buys milk at night.’”
The band was playing in the Charlotte Common Market — a convenience store, deli and bar that Martin said “seemed like a punk rock grocery store,” which gave him the idea to start something similar in Muncie.
He said he knew finding a building for the Muncie Common Market would be easy and rent would be affordable. Martin and his father bought a two-story building in 2015 on West 8th Street and lived in the building between his travel gigs. The Common Market opened in 2016 as a general store but didn’t have regular operating hours until 2020.
“Before last year, it was like, if I’m home for a month, we’re open, and if I’m gone for two months, we’re closed,” Martin said. “The neighbors have really caught on that we’re here now since we’ve been consistently open.”
Learn more about the Common Market
The Common Market is located on the corner of West 8th Street and South Hoyt Avenue at 900 W. 8th St.
Open Monday-Saturday 12-6 p.m.
The Common Market sells groceries, cold press nitro coffee, pet food, vinyl records and donated clothing.
Source: Mike Martin, Common Market owner
In November 2020, the Muncie Downtown Development Partnership contacted Martin about applying for the HartBeat of Main Street Grant Program — sponsored by Main Street America and The Hartford — made to help struggling businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
Martin applied, not expecting to win any money, but was notified in January 2021 that the Common Market was one of just 31 small businesses across the United States chosen to receive a grant.
The Common Market was given $15,000, which Martin said will be used to build a kitchen, sell hot food to customers and install touchless checkout counters to make operating in the midst of COVID-19 safer.
The 8twelve Coalition, a local project aiming to revitalize Muncie’s South Central neighborhood, also awarded the Common Market $14,400 to expand its grocery and hire local residents.
“It feels like we’re on our mission and that it’s working, and people like Main Street America see that,” he said. “We really were amazed at the crazy couple of blessings that came our way.”
The Common Market sits in a food desert — where residents have limited access to healthy foods due to a lack of grocery stores and transportation access. Martin said he thinks the Common Market won grants from Main Street America and the 8twelve Coalition because of the detailed plans for a kitchen that relieves some of the neighborhood’s food desert issues. The kitchen will provide sandwiches, pizza and deli foods, Martin said. He said he didn’t want to take out loans for these development projects because debt would make it difficult to sustain the Common Market.
“These grants let us fast forward with some of the ideas we didn’t think we’d be able to do for a while,” he said. “Our plan was maybe think about a kitchen in 2022, but getting these grants a few weeks ago makes a huge difference.”
Martin didn’t have any paid staff members before receiving the 8twelve Coalition grant, which allowed him to hire two employees.
Toria Callow, a Ball State graduate student in emerging media design and development, started as a volunteer photographer for the Common Market in November 2020 and was just added to the payroll in mid-January.
“I drove past the building several times as an undergraduate student,” Callow said. “There was some art on the side of the building, and I thought, ‘This is interesting. It looks kind of like a rundown building, but there’s a lot of those in the neighborhood.’”
Callow manages the Common Market’s social media accounts and said she comes into the storefront a few times a week. She said she is excited for the Common Market to expand its services in the South Central neighborhood through its grant projects.
“It’s a really cool meeting place. We have some tables throughout the store where people can just hang out,” she said. “We want to have things that really draw the community to the Common Market and make it a hub that people really want to hang out in.”
Martin said he hopes to bring in local musicians to perform in the Common Market’s music studio after being approved for a food permit. “Mike Martin and The Beautiful Mess” plans to return to South Carolina in March, so he wants the kitchen to be completed before he leaves. Staff will continue to manage the Common Market while Martin is gone.
When he founded the Common Market, Martin said, he wanted the business to pay for itself within 10 years. He said his business mantra is “one recycled brick at a time,” a reminder to make small steps toward his future goals.
“[The Common Market] is supposed to be a place that’s inspiring and serves the community and can help grow these kinds of initiatives in Muncie,” he said. “If in the next five years, the place pays for itself and supports the community and artists, that’s what we’ve been trying to build.”
Contact Grace McCormick with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @graceMc564.