After spending time in Iraq during the war, Regina Koetters isn't about to lose sleep over her latest endeavor -- opening a new market in the Strip District.
"It's so much more peaceful," she said of her store venture. "It's about people, variety and risk. I can sleep well at night."
Nearly a year after the Right by Nature store closed at Smallman and 23rd streets, Ms. Koetters is filling the void -- and the vacant space -- with Marty's Market, which is scheduled to open in late spring.
Ms. Koetters sees the new market becoming a "destination" in a neighborhood whose chief draw is its unique collection of specialty food stores and produce wholesalers.
At Marty's Market, she hopes to invite celebrity and amateur chefs to teach culinary classes or to prepare dinners to go. The store will focus solely on food, stocked with fresh produce and meats as well as staples like bread, milk and eggs. There will be freshly prepared meals and other items shoppers can grab for lunch or on their way home from work.
The market also will feature a coffee bar and a cafe with outdoor seating.
"This is a destination food store in the region's destination for food," Ms. Koetters said. "I'm leveraging the address. I'm leveraging the location and we'll see if it works."
She said she will buy and sell produce grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. The meats will be free of antibiotics, steroids and added hormones. She also plans to make ample use of producers located within 150 miles of the store.
"I'm going to be really investing a lot of time and effort in doing local first," she said.
Ms. Koetters arrived in Pittsburgh in 2008 from Ann Arbor, Mich. She spent more than 12 years in the Navy, eight on active duty. As a naval flight officer, she flew missions over Iraq in early 2003 while on active duty. She also was stationed in Iraq as a reservist for a year ending in November 2009.
She got the idea for the new market while walking around the Cork Factory apartment complex and seeing the vacant store space. Right By Nature closed last April after less than three years at the location, saying it could not generate enough traffic to "maintain and grow the business."
Nonetheless, Ms. Koetters isn't the least bit anxious about taking over the spot, noting that Right by Nature was more of a full-scale supermarket than Marty's Market, with its focus solely on food, intends to be.
"People come to the Strip to get great food, and I'm building off that pattern," she said.
Likewise, Ms. Koetters doesn't see Marty's Market -- she wanted a name that felt "more like a neighborhood place" -- competing with other Strip merchants for business.
"I don't think it's competition," she said. "What I'm doing is a complement. It's actually building on what exists."
Mark Belko: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1262.