INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. –Two Indianapolis women are using a free food box outside of a popular near-east side restaurant to draw attention to the negative effect of gentrification.
Beholder, which sits at the intersection of 10th and Woodruff is a new high-end restaurant that has received numerous accolades. The restaurant may sound familiar because it’s been in the news recently for an “inappropriate” mural depicting two bunnies having sex, and for selling a $1,000 dinner that includes two Caesar salads, 24 twice-cooked wings, fries, shaved black truffles, a can of Royal Belgian Osetra Caviar, a chilled bottle of Cristal, two shots of VEP green chartreuse, two shots of anything else at the bar and unlimited Pabst Blue Ribbon while you eat.
It was a Facebook comment by co-owner Jonathan Brooks’ defending the mural that first caught Elysia Smith’s attention. In a profanity laced post that has since been removed, Brooks wrote “You’re welcome for the rising property values.” which didn’t sit well with Smith
“Its obvious that he’s aware he is changing the neighborhood,” she said.
Smith says she believes businesses like Beholder often come in to vulnerable areas, and become part of a gentrification process that ignores, and ultimately displaces vulnerable residents. In this case, she says the residents of the area Beholder is in, often struggle with food insecurity.
“People come in and they say wouldn’t it be great if this was here because I live here now, and I want this convenience. They don’t think about the people who have been living there for a long time and have different needs and wants,” Smith said.
That’s when Smith teamed up with Sierra Nuckols.
Two years ago, Nuckols recognized a problem in the Circle City. After the closure of four Double 8 grocery stores, thousands of residents were living in food deserts. Without a long-term solution in sight, she took matters into her own hands and started the Community Food Box Project.
The food boxes are stocked with free food for anyone who needs it.
The Community Food Box Project recently hit a milestone – Nuckols just installed her 50th food box. And the location it was installed was thoughtfully planned.
So Nuckols partnered with Smith’s business, Irvington Vinyl & Books to install the box near the intersection of 10th and Woodruff outside of Beholder.
“They’re in the community, but their not of the community, they’re not taking steps to make the community feel included in their business,” Nuckols said.
Nuckols says the food box was intentionally installed there to show the “juxtaposition of a restaurant where the dinner bill can tally to over $100 and a food box serving free food to local residents who can’t afford a meal at all.”
Smith, is offering a 10 percent discount on purchases to anyone who brings in a non-perishable item to donate.
Both women say they’re trying to send a message about the effect of gentrification on neighborhoods like the one Beholder inhabits. Ultimately, they say they’re not against gentrification, they just want it to be a more thoughtful process.
“I think there are equitable solutions to slow how gentrification happens and to ensure that legacy community members own store fronts own their own homes..help them do that before we start bringing in developers,” Smith said.
FOX59 did reach out to the owner of Beholder. We were told he wasn’t available for comment.