Century-old Harvard Market closes

The building’s owners have not yet decided which business will fill the space.

by Marni Ginther

After more than 100 years in the University’s Stadium Village neighborhood, the Harvard Market on the corner of Harvard Street and Washington Avenue Southeast closed May 9.

The Harvard Market East, a larger store under the same ownership just three blocks away, will remain open.

The store closed because expenses were up, sales were down and it was hard to maintain a profit, said store owner Brad Mateer.

Insurance rates, licensing fees and rent were some of the rising overhead costs he cited. He also mentioned that the policy of accepting credit cards to stay competitive ended up costing thousands of dollars a year due to fees paid to credit card companies.

But business is better at the Harvard Market East. Since it can carry a larger inventory, the cost of business is lower, Mateer said. Employees from the old store were offered jobs at the newer store. Mateer is even hiring more staff and plans to add a new register.

While the windows of the old Harvard Market remain covered by brown paper, the building owners and property management company, Nationwide Group, are deciding how to fill the space.

Right now they’re looking at three possible tenants, said property manager Elio Montermini of Nationwide. Two tenants would keep the store as a market, but with slight changes – like selling sandwiches – and the third option is “a bigger corporation that sells blended juices,” Montermini said.

He was unable to comment on the names of the businesses but said Nationwide hopes to make the decision by the time the Harvard Market’s lease is up in September.

The building owners were unable to comment further.

Stadium Village Commercial Association President Jim Rosvold said although it’s sad to lose a store with so much history, Mateer was paying “above-market overhead costs.” Rosvold said he understands why it would make sense to consolidate the two stores.

And among the markets inside Coffman Union and the Harvard Market East, he said he’s confident the needs of local shoppers and superblock students will be met, even if they have to walk a few extra blocks.

But whether students can still buy late-night snacks just blocks from their dorms is a separate issue for community members who feel the neighborhood has lost a little piece of history.

“It’s almost like a landmark,” said Mike Ewing, who’s worked at the store for 12 years. “I’ve had people come in who went to school here in the ’70s and say the store hasn’t changed a bit.”

And independent shops like the Harvard Market are what keep the area’s sense of community, said Elizabeth Royal, a Washington Avenue resident who frequented the store.

“I’m curious to see what goes in there,” she said. “Hopefully it will be something we need – not another coffee shop – and something that will be good for the community.”