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Business & Economy

New meat market helps continue the transformation of Parsons Avenue

Armando Rios brings his 15 years as a butcher to the new Toro Meat Market, located at 704 Parsons Ave. in Columbus. The store recently celebrated its grand opening.
Matthew Rand
/
WOSU
Armando Rios brings his 15 years' experience as a butcher to the new Toro Meat Market, located at 704 Parsons Ave. in Columbus. The store recently celebrated its grand opening.

It's no secret that many of central Ohio's most affluent zip codes lie north of Interstate 70.

For decades, parts of the South Side have struggled to keep up as Columbus has grown.

But a new grocery store on Parsons Avenue is yet another indication of the continuing surge of growth in the area.

Toro Meat Market is located in the old Little's Village IGA building on Parsons Avenue near Nationwide Children's Hospital.

Parsons Avenue is the third central Ohio location Toro Meat Market has opened since 2022.
Matthew Rand
/
WOSU
Parsons Avenue is the third central Ohio location Toro Meat Market has opened since 2022.

"We got our carne asada, we got our our ribs, we got our pork chops. We we take pride in our meat selection," said Toro's owner and president, Fernando Alcauter.

Alcauter said the Parsons Avenue store is the third they've opened around Central Ohio since 2022.

"We understand at the end of the day that people gotta eat. It's not an option; it's a need. And I feel like we know what we bring to the table. And that's a perfect opportunity, a perfect match for our business plan," Alcauter said.

The store recently celebrated its grand opening. One customer, Nathan Hess, said he's impressed by what Toro has done with the place.

"They've done a great job kind of updating it, making the floors look real nice. [They've] got a better meat selection," Hess said.

And, Hess said, he's encouraged to see new growth in the neighborhood.

"Obviously, down south can get a little rough, but it's good to see this area doing well. I'm excited for the future of it," Hess said.

Toro Meat Market owner and president Fernando Alcauter shows off the store's fresh meat selection.
Matthew Rand
/
WOSU
Toro Meat Market owner and president Fernando Alcauter shows off the store's fresh meat selection.

For decades, Parsons Avenue has been a dividing line between the South Side and wealthier neighborhoods to the west, such as Schumacher Place and German Village.

"These were communities that have thrived. But that that that benefit really didn't extend beyond the avenue in places like Southern Orchards and Ganthers Place. We weren't seeing that type of, that type of investment," said Brian Higgins, executive director of the Parsons Avenue Redevelopment Corporation.

Higgins said Parsons Avenue has made a lot of progress in the last 10 years or so, such as when PARC bought and shut down an adult bookstore in 2014.

"By removing that impediment, it spurred the revitalization of the entire block. So now there's Parsons North Brewing, there's Compton Construction, there's a few other businesses in that block," Higgins said. "They flat out said to me, 'We would not have done this if the bookstore was still in place.'"

Parsons Avenue has received millions of dollars' worth of investment in recent years.

In 2019, the city finished a major street project on Parsons. Traffic was reduced from two lanes in either direction to one with a center turn lane, with the aim of slowing down traffic and improving safety.

The project also installed new ADA-compliant curb ramps at intersections and a push-button pedestrian signal at East Beck Street, not far from the new meat market.

Additionally, Nationwide Children's Hospital continues to expand its campus at Parsons and East Livingston avenues, spurring new development in the area and investing in affordable housing through the Healthy Homes program.

"The great news is, is that after a period of disinvestment, the South Side is seeing a lot of investment coming in new houses, new, new businesses, things like that," said Mike Premo, executive director of Community Development for All People.

The United Methodist Church ministry works with people experiencing poverty and other barriers, offering healthy fresh food, gently used clothing and household items, and more.

"We are basically trying to build a community, turn the South Side into a community where all people can live and thrive," Premo said.

Premo said new developments along Parsons Avenue are a welcome sign, but he also worries about what that growth will mean for the avenue's most vulnerable residents.

Homelessness hit an all-time high in Franklin County for a second straight year, after increasing by 22% in last year's count.

"Parsons Avenue is going to look dramatically different in 10 years than it does now. We want to make sure it's different for the good, meaning that we have market-rate housing, we have affordable rate housing, we have small businesses that can come on Parsons Avenue and operate and thrive," Premo said.

Back at Toro Meat Market, veteran butcher Armando Rios is prepping fajita mix for the day's customers.

"I like cutting the meat and serving the people," Rios said.

Owner Alcauter said he's proud to be a part of Parsons Avenue's transformation. He said the reception from the community has been a warm one.

"All you hear from them is like, 'Thank you for coming to our community. Thank you for being here. We love what you're doing," Alcauter said. "It's just that love and that support. I feel like it's more of a community that's very united. And they just support each other."

Toro Meat Market is open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Tags
Business & Economy South SideParsons Avenue
Matthew Rand is the Morning Edition host for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides daily talk show.