In the eyes of Steve Bell, a 96-year-old basement with flaking paint and exposed pipes is a majestic, European-style market in waiting.
He sees fresh produce on the left and Georgia products on the right, filling cases between windows now caked with decades of grime.
Time is on the side of Ocmulgee Traders, said Bell, one of the grocery stores owners who formally announced the project Thursday in the Dannenberg building in downtown Macon.
This is one of the key components downtowns been missing for 30 years, Bell told people assembled outside the storefront of 455 Poplar St. When I say its a long time coming, its here.
Bell predicted that within 60 to 90 days, Ocmulgee Traders will be open for business. A tall foyer will give way to an upstairs mezzanine with an espresso bar, sandwiches, beer and wine. Most of the store would be underneath that.
In all, Ocmulgee Traders will open with about 5,200 square feet and the right kind of variety, said Bell, who also runs a marketing company. The store may stock a staple such as Jif peanut butter as well as a high-end almond butter, he said.
Bell described fresh produce in coolers and dry produce nearby. He gestured to an area where he wants to put a cheese island, marked now only by a tangle of electrical cords and ropes.
Carts and other equipment from the buildings long heritage -- parts of which date back 119 years -- may be used to display food.
Speaking inside the planned store area to onlookers, Bell said hed just discovered a yogurt made with almond milk, which would help people with lactose intolerance. He envisions a European-style market with fresh produce and meat, staples and high-end foods.
The stores location -- in a revitalized building with dozens of lofts and a planned fitness center, steps from the corner of Poplar and Third streets -- puts it within easy distance of workers and apartment dwellers.
Bell said 12,000 people work in downtown Macon, and Ocmulgee Traders will be an easy stop for them. He said the store is planning an online ordering system, so people could simply get to the store, pick up their groceries and drive away.
Mike Ford, president of NewTown Macon, has said for years that downtown Macon has a huge potential for loft apartments. The grocery store will help, he said.
Its going to be big for downtown, Ford said Thursday.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.