Superior Street Mercantile is Albion’s newest business to open its doors downtown. Though the small grocery store opened at the end of 2021, plans for the store started when the building was bought in 2019.
The mercantile building was previously occupied by the Fedco Super Liquor store. After the Courtyard by Marriott opened across the street in 2018 and the success of the Foundry Bakehouse and Deli in the Peabody Building in 2019, local business owner Bill Dobbins (’74) and his family looked for ways to add to Albion’s downtown.
“Once the hotel was developed, here we had this beautiful, unique downtown hotel and directly across from it was a sort of run-down liquor store,” said Joe Verbeke, acting manager of Superior Street Mercantile and son-in-law of owner Dobbins. “It was just one of those things where we feel we can make an impact downtown.”
In purchasing the building, Fedco’s liquor license for the building carried over. With this in mind, the Dobbins family looked for ways they could serve the community in a unique way while still taking advantage of what the building had to offer.
Between the size of the building, the building’s preexisting liquor license and the desire to fulfill community needs, the idea for a mercantile was the best fit, according to Verbeke.
“Can we put something here that’s gonna serve the community in a way that they’ve asked,” said Verbeke. “That means quality grocery, higher quality groceries than the Spartan brand that’s up at Family Fare, a produce section that we’re proud of and just something that is clear and really well looked at.”
Though the mercantile was conceived with the intention of providing groceries for a town with one other grocery store, there has also been an unintended positive consequence, according to Verbeke. Much of what the store has to offer is Michigan made and often locally produced.
“It wasn’t necessarily intentional, but as we move forward, it will become intentional,” said Verbeke. “One, because that differentiates us. But also because, at the end of the day, if people are going to spend another dollar or two dollars on steaks or ground beef or chicken or whatever, they’d certainly love it if it came from a local farm.”
While it was not initially intentional to focus on local products, it is something the store will continue to prioritize.
“I want to be able to have some real staples, especially if it’s meat items, I want to source them from a local farm. When fruits and vegetables are in season, I’d like to use local farms there,” said Verbeke.
Another way the mercantile hopes to serve the community is by its central location in Albion’s downtown on Superior Street.
“We’re in the center of town and having something downtown is a lot more convenient to a lot of people, especially if you just need a handful of things,” said Verbeke.
The central location also makes the store accessible to the students at Albion College, which is less than a mile away. Some students have already stopped by the mercantile to see what the store has to offer.
Eryn Lewis, Albion junior, has visited the store twice in the past two weeks.
“I think it just increases accessibility to food and gives people an opportunity to shop elsewhere,” said Lewis, via email. “Because we don’t have public transportation here in Albion, I think it’s good to have multiple grocery stores in ideal locations so it is a comfortable walking distance for people, even in cold weather.”
Superior Street Mercantile will continue to try to better serve the Albion community, according to Verbeke. One of the ways the business intends to do this is by accepting SNAP benefits and Bridge Cards for payment in the near future.
As the business continues to grow, feedback from the community is always appreciated, according to Verbeke.
“The worst thing to happen to us is for someone to be excited to come in, to look for something specific and not find it, not tell us and then go away being disappointed thinking we’re not listening,” said Verbeke. “That’s my worst fear.”
While the business has been open for over a month and continues to add new products to its shelves, there is still space for new additions.
“I can’t be everything to everybody, but we still have a fair amount of capacity to bring in unique things and make this a real Albion sort of thing,” said Verbeke.