American Hardware & Supply Company has been operating in Fountain Square for almost 70 years. Owner Lawrence Kaseff inherited the business from his parents. His plan has always been to leave it to his children and grandchildren, but now he’s not sure that will happen.
Blue Indy, the new electric car sharing program, put five spaces in front of his business on East Virginia Avenue. Now he and the neighboring business are forced to share a single parking space. Kaseff worries that this will ruin his business.
“They took up prime parking,” he said. “People come in, and if they want a furnace, well they don’t want to walk three blocks to get it. They want it here, and that’s it. They gave me one parking space.”
Kaseff said his family business has never had a parking lot, and has always relied on curbside parking. He said his second concern came from the amount of semis that deliver stock to his shop. Occasionally, he said, semis will tip over. If one was to land on a Blue Indy car, the outcome would be “not good.”
He claims his biggest worry is shared by several small business owners from Broad Ripple to Fountain Square.
“My argument is if the little guy goes out of business, what you’ve done is decrease the tax revenues, and so everybody suffers,” he said.
Kaseff’s store sits next to Matthews & Son Appliance, which has been family owned for forty years. Today it is run by Rhonda Matthews and her husband Brian. She said she had seen the list of where the spots were originally going to go, and the curb in front of the two shops was not mentioned. When she returned from a trip out of town, she saw that they were being put up in front of the two stores.
“I had talked to them … we’ve been here forty years. These double doors were put here for a reason,” she said. “Refrigerators have to go out these doors. Did you guys not think about that? Or does it matter? Do we not count – forty years of being in business?”
Matthews said she approached the four Blue Indy workers installing the spots and handed each a letter to take to their bosses and to Mayor Ballard.
“It was quite explicit,” she said.
“Rhonda literally could make a serial killer turn red,” Kaseff said. “If she got done with Ballard, he’d get out of office the next day.”
Matthews said the anger stemmed from the lack of input sought from the community, which she and her husband, a Fountain Square resident since childhood, truly care for.
“It boils down to it’s city property, and they’re going to do what they want to do,” Matthews said. “We don’t matter. The gentrification is in full swing down here. I’m sure they would soon put condos here and have these three buildings gone.”
Kaseff agreed that the lack of input was the cause of the frustration.
“We’re not against the concept, because we don’t really know the concept,” Kaseff said. “The city county council didn’t know, nobody knew, no organization, no merchant’s organization, no merchants - nothing.”
Kaseff said he would like to see Blue Indy seek more input from local businesses and move their parking stations to less inconvenient parts of the street.