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NAPPANEE — The former Martin’s Hardware Store building, 151 E. Market St., which has been empty since the 55-year-old business closed in 2013, will soon open as a general mercantile.

Local business owners Marcus and Debra Miller said the store, which will be called Neighbors Mercantile Co., is set to open spring 2021. Their announcement was posted May 7 on the Neighbors Mercantile Facebook page and states, “We’re so excited to be announcing the beginning of a journey in downtown Nappanee. After several years of processing ideas the iconic Martin’s Hardware building was purchased in the summer of 2019 with the vision of bringing it back to life.”

“As you may know, we currently own and operate Main Street Roasters. Our staff at Main Street was informed today of this new venture and assured that our hearts remain fully invested in the work at Main Street. We are excited to step into this venture and rebuild a small piece of our hometown.

“Joining us in the early phases of this venture is Lauren Johns, who is managing the design aspect of the project. We feel very blessed to have her assist us in the work ahead. She will be handling our social media and communication at this time. We look forward to adding more qualified individuals as the project takes shape. Stay tuned as we unveil our vision for what the shop will offer. Ultimately we want Neighbors to be a place where everyone is welcome and where all ages feel at home to browse, shop or just stop by and see what’s new.”

Debra Miller spoke about that vision Monday saying the pair want the store to have a nostalgic, old general store feel and the product lines they’re envisioning carrying include items that will be of interest to residents of Indiana and the Midwest — camping, lake living, etc. She said they’ve been thinking about purchasing the building since before Martin’s closed.

Debra said they want to honor the history of the building, which was once the Coppes Hotel, and unveil the original brick but upgrade the look and add an elevator, for example. She said they’re in the very beginning stages of demolition and renovation, and they had just brought Lauren on when the COVID-19 crisis struck.

“We’ve been inspired by all the people who’ve invested in town over the last five years or so and we want to be part of giving Nappanee a chance,” she said.

Debra said they saw a need for a retail general store downtown and see the benefits of complementary businesses, saying they can’t have all restaurants or all antique stores downtown. The Millers plan to be involved in the ownership, vision and administration but will bring on staff for day to day operations.

“We’re very excited about it,” Debra said.

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