New Bistro Market bets on downtown. New June IND track debuts here

Owners of Bistro 501 go in on a new downtown Lafayette market and deli. This one, they're sure, is going to work. Also: June IND, older and wiser, with video debut of a retooled song from their past

Mary Buckley, one of three owners of Bistro Market and Deli, talks about the return of the concept of a downtown Lafayette market. Bistro Market and Deli opened in the 100 block of North Fifth Street, next to Bistro 501, this week. (Photo: Dave Bangert)

As the first days of the pandemic shutdown pushed sit-down restaurants into carry-out operations, at best, the Buckley family adjusted, setting up a spare market in March 2020 to go along with the menu at Bistro 501.

Just off the dining room at Fifth and Main streets in downtown Lafayette, they added deli meats, steak, eggs, milk, toilet paper, hand sanitizer and whatever other household staples they could get in stock, and took phone orders for pickup.

Mary Buckley, who owns Bistro 501 with Theresa and Cheyenne Buckley, said the three had talked about branching out with a grocery concept for the past three years. Forced to improvise to survive, she said the makeshift market was pulling in $300 to $400 a day. Not a ton, she said, but enough to split among staff trying to hang in new, part-time roles.

“And enough to show us that this market idea we’d been thinking about all that time for downtown, well, it definitely could work,” Mary Buckley said.

On Thursday, three days into the soft launch of Bistro Market and Deli – “Make that 2½ days,” she said – a steady crowd of downtown workers and Bistro 501 regular customers was filtering through what once was the Lahr Hotel atrium, calling out to the Buckley family by name.

“Great job, Miss Mary,” Chadd Gibson, who’d stopped in for something from the deli, said.

Gibson’s crews from Gibson Painting had put coats of a Cape Cod blue and white on the dentil molding throughout the 19th century atrium, which also received refinished marble floors, repaired skylights and an overall makeover that added a deli counter, produce racks and a coffee spot where the hotel’s concierge desk once stood.

“Because of people like you,” Mary Buckley answered, as Gibson waved and headed back to work. “Love you all.”

The concept is built on the shoulders of Bistro 501, stocked with a tasting station for specialty olive oils, high-end meats and seafood, a deli counter anchored by locally smoked pastrami, a selection of fresh pasta and couscous, gluten-free goods, eggs (including duck, chicken and quail), dairy products and a small stash of household staples, including toilet paper. Produce comes with the same shipments going to the restaurant next door. And cooler space includes a rotation of goods available by the season or even the day. (Chanterelle mushrooms that were  foraged that morning and zucchini blossoms in one cooler Thursday afternoon might not be back in stock next week, she said.)

The idea is, she said, to be competitive on prices with Meijer – which has two stores in Greater Lafayette – and Starbucks.

The bet is that downtown – with hundreds of new apartments, most of them aimed at empty-nesters and young professionals, open in the past few years or in the works – is ready for a walkable market.

“There’s a difference between a dream and a business,” Mary Buckley said. “This is no dream. We asked, What does the place need? What will it support? What is it missing? I think this is it. The time is right.”

The grocery concept isn’t new in downtown Lafayette. City Foods gave it a shot as co-op on Main Street for a few years, until the end of 2020. Before a small grocery store near the corner of Fourth and Columbia streets, in the space now used by a Chinese restaurant, struggled until it closed more than a decade ago.

“Though many decades ago, the downtown had many grocers, including a Piggly Wiggly in the Bistro 501 restaurant space, it has not had one for some time except for a short-lived one where Sichuan House is currently,” Dennis Carson, Lafayette’s economic development director, said.

“Though I know many were supportive of it, the timing was probably too soon as there were not as many people downtown, and the ones that were downtown were willing to travel farther out,” Carson said. “(The Bistro Market and Deli) is a good use of that space and an amenity that is needed and desired by the growing number of residents living and working in and near downtown.”

The Bistro 501 owners signed a lease for the atrium space in February and raced to get it ready for an early-summer opening.

“We knew it was time for us to expand 501, somehow,” Mary Buckley said. “Where we are, you can’t go up – you’ve got apartments. You can’t go out – it’s the street. And we thought, Do we really want to open a second location and basically compete with ourselves?”

Buckley said Bistro 501 will continue with its evening-only hours Thursday through Sunday, along with Sunday brunch. She said the deli in the new market was designed as a better way to pick up the downtown lunch crowd. (Hours are 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays-Saturdays and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays.)

When doors opened at 1 p.m. Tuesday, with no formal announcement, not even a Facebook post, Mary Buckley said she cried, knowing the initial work was done. Theresa Buckley said it’s been a scramble ever since, running between the two businesses. By the end of the first day, Mary Buckley said, 75 people had filtered in, many of them Bistro 501 regulars waiting to see what was inside.

“It’s all been word of mouth so far,” Mary Buckley said. “It feels like we’re at the start of something in downtown. Now, we just need to prove it.”

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Older, but new: Hello, again, June IND’s ‘Come to Hand’

Today’s a big day for June IND, with Chris June and Emily Larimer set to release “Come to Hand,” a remade track from their days in the band Chemcoma.

The new rendition, the first from June IND since their “First Annual Meeting of Optimists” series in 2019 and 2020, was recorded to mark the 10th anniversary of the last show of their heavier Chemcoma. Older for sure, wiser most likely, June and Larimer recorded with Lafayette’s Justice Fuller on backing vocals and violin on this one.

First, a conversation with Chris June about old days, new days and what’s next.

Question: Has it really been 10 years since the end of Chemcoma? 

Chris June: Somehow, yes. It's been 10 years and about five lifetimes ago. Most bands start out in a garage, but not Chemcoma. Chemcoma formed in a furniture store, or rather an old, run-down school building that also housed a furniture store. We have really fond memories of that era and what we accomplished – playing a ton of regional shows, including concert support for national acts like Korn and Drowning Pool, having our music licensed to TV shows like the “Real World” and “Road Rules” and being sponsored by Jägermeister. It was a ton of tough work making all of that happen. We also made some lifelong friends in that “little engine that didn't” band and within the local music scene, so it doesn't really seem like that long ago.

Q: How did you get so old? How did any of us get so old?

Chris June: Orrrr... we were just really young when Chemcoma was around? We don't know. We think we blinked and time travelled a bit. And now we're... older. But we are still very cool. Like, no doubt, we're cooler now that we each have kids to impress every day. It's keeping us sharp.

Q: Why the remake of “Come to Hand” at this moment?

Chris June: In the original writing sessions, we were most proud of how "Come to Hand" brought Chemcoma together as songwriters and helped pave the way for the rest of the catalogue to come together. Emily was pretty nervous putting it out for the group initially, since the lyrics were pretty personal. The original demo was a slow burn, bar chord, moody, chugger song. It was pretty cool to see how everyone added better things to it and morphed it into what it was meant to be. We were pretty proud of the final mix from Grant Mohrman (Filter/Celldweller).

It seemed fitting to choose "Come to Hand" as a tester song when we were game-planning on how to balance doing more June IND recordings in our “pandemic, larger families” world. Working with Neil McTavish at REC Room Recording and having Justice Fuller guest on vocals and violin brought back that nostalgia of working with a cool group of talented folks. It brought the song to life again and Dan Precision (Rise Against, 88 Fingers Louie, The Mound Builders) nailed the mix. For years Chemcoma tossed around the idea of doing acoustic versions of its songs, so it's also a fitting tribute to release "Come to Hand" on the 10th anniversary of the band's farewell show. We get a kick out of that type of symmetry, for sure.

(Conversation continues below the video …)

Q: You talked in your posts about this release about trying to “claw back some of your pre-pandemic momentum.” Where were you then, where are you now and what sort of clawing is necessary here?

Chris June: We were this close to a Grammy! Lol. No, but really, we had a plan, a schedule to keep and the means to do it. We made two trips to record with Dan Precision at the Bombshelter in Chicago in 2019. The first effort, “First Annual Meeting of Optimists, Vol. 1,” was named a Top Release of 2019 by the USA Today Network. The second effort, “First Annual Meeting of Optimists, Vol. 2” was released in a hurry as all of the lockdowns started. Our return trip to record “First Annual Meeting of Optimists, Vol. 3” in March 2020 was scrapped.

COVID and life happened, and now it feels like starting over after a whole year disappeared behind computer screens and scary headlines. Between the pandemic, the general state of the world and adding to our families, it's been a relief to get back to making music again. Things aren't fully right, but at least we can safely hang out, meet each other’s new kiddos and make some music in person again. That seems like a good start.

Since we're riding a curve that doesn't seem like it's going to flatten, we're planning to release all of the “First Annual Meeting of Optimists” material in the same (or similar) unplugged format as "Come to Hand." We'll record close to home and send it to Dan to mix. Hopefully, there will come a day when we can physically get back to the Bombshelter to finish the plugged-in effort.

Q: How is it trying to rock as parents these days? Did you ever imagine?

Chris June: If there wasn't enough time to practice before kids, well, there's less now. Emily's twins are not fans of drum practice yet, but they'll come around. My kids have Thin Lizzy, Little Richard and Sevendust for a soundtrack. My son and I are already writing songs together and we performed for an Art Museum of Greater Lafayette streaming event back in December. 

We imagine we're going to blink and all be practicing together in a few years once the kids are old enough to carry our gear for us. It's been one of the cooler things as a part of this band and the larger music scene; seeing the scene morph into more of a community foundation and watching all of these kiddos grow up and discovering music. It's cool to watch the youngsters dancing away and singing along to hard rock and metal songs that we've been jamming together for years. 

Q: You used the REC Room, the new recording studio at Tippecanoe Arts Federation, a real community asset. How did that go for you?

Chris June: Scott Greeson and the Songwriters Association of Mid-North Indiana (SAMI) crew put together a great resource for our local music community with REC Room Recording. Having recorded at quite a few studios over the years, it's definitely on par with other pro studios. Additionally, Neil McTavish was a lot of fun to work with and a very supportive engineer. It was a fun way to spend a weeknight; jamming with friends in a cool space and getting a great recording out of the deal.

Q: What’s next? Show dates? Releases? Food truck runs?

Chris June: Yes. Definitely food truck, People's Brewing Company and local restaurant runs. More recording, releases and streaming shows are on the horizon. We're not anticipating any in-person events until 2022.

Q: What else should I know?

Chris June: Since August of last year, we've been donating our monthly music income to various nonprofits and local organizations through our #Philanthrocky Music for a Cause campaign. We're looking forward to this #BangertBump helping funnel more loot into the community.

Q: #BangertBump … sheesh …

Chris June: So, here's the plug to buy and stream our music. Links at JuneIND.com/links.

YOUR TURN: Have a new or recent release? Let me know and we’ll see if we can showcase it here. I’m at davebangert1@gmail.com.


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