Closing could affect many Hoosiers

Laura McPhee

Indiana may be losing one of its best-known and most generous businesses, as Marsh Supermarkets looks to sell off its stores after reporting major losses.

Marsh operates more than 100 Marsh Supermarkets, LoBill Foods stores and O'Malia Food Markets in Central Indiana and western Ohio. The company also operates a variety of other offshoot businesses including Village Pantry and McNamara Florists.

The biggest challenge facing Marsh is competition from large box-store retailers like Meijer and Wal-Mart, which offer lower prices and the lower pay rates for employees.

Area shoppers weren't surprised at the announcement, but still found it sad news. "I know it hurts smaller stores like Marsh," John Bennett of Indianapolis said. "But we've gotten used to the big stores and their convenience and lower prices. I end up going to Wal-Mart because I can get a lot of shopping done at once instead of going to a bunch of stores."

Karen Rogers says she worries that the loss of O'Malia stores in the city will affect the quality and diversity of foods available. "I know some stores like Target and Meijer offer some hard to find foods," she says. "But I love to cook, and O'Malia just seems to have a better selection of produce and meats. It will be sad to see them gone from the neighborhood."

Fifteen thousand store employees could be affected by any potential sale of Marsh retail stores, as well as an additional 500 employees at Marsh headquarters.

But many more Indiana residents would also be affected by the loss of Marsh in the community. More than 25 nonprofit organizations are currently supported or sponsored by Marsh. The American Red Cross, United Way, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, Lighthouse Mission and Gleaners Food Bank have all relied on the generosity of the Marsh company as they help families and individuals in need, as does Riley Hospital for Children.

Local arts groups would also suffer if the company changes hands. The Indianapolis Museum of Art, Penrod Arts Fair, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Children's Museum use funding from Marsh for programming. And community groups like Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and Little League would likely lose some of their financial support.

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