When news broke last month that the Roosevelt Market building was for sale, it rippled through Boise’s East End neighborhood.
People rallied to support business owners Susan Wilder and Nicki Monroe. Some even formed a community group to try to purchase the building so they could protect a beloved institution — the last of Boise’s independent neighborhood markets.
Amid all the hubbub, one neighbor — Jill Simplot, the daughter of J.R. Simplot Company CEO Scott — and her mother, Pam Lemley, quietly decided to buy it.
“I just love the Roosevelt,” Jill Simplot said. “It’s such a part of the community, I would hate to see it change.”
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Simplot and Lemley plan to keep the market going and the tenant in the upstairs apartment. Wilder and Monroe will continue as proprietors. Simplot and her mom say they will stay fairly hands off but want to tackle some of the 117-year-old building’s issues.
“We will improve the kitchen and the office area, and we’ll do some other improvements along the way,” Lemely said. “But we’re not going to raise their rent, so they can relax.”
Simplot said she read a story in the Idaho Statesman and called Lemley, who grew up in the grocery store business. The two decided to go in on it.
“I called mom and told her, ‘We’ve got to do something,’ ” Simplot said.
The building’s owners, Kealy and Mike Baughman, bought it in 2013. They put it on the market in late August. Kealy Baughman said in an earlier story that she was looking for a buyer who would allow the market to continue.
“I never doubted that we would find buyers who shared our vision and values,” Baughman said. “I want to say thank you to those with good intentions and those who trusted us.”
Simplot and Lemley have worked together on investment properties in the past, but this one is special because it’s something they could do for the community, Simplot said.
“We want to keep (the market) safe,” she said. “It’s the right thing to do.”
It’s something Simplot learned from the family.
J.R. Simplot built several buildings, such as Idaho IceWorld, and then sold them to the city for far less than their value. And Scott Simplot recently invested $6 million to help Boise create Esther Simplot Park. The family foundation built the giant community center and tractor museum Jack’s Urban Meeting Place.
Lemley, who is married to “Chunnel” engineer Jack Lemely, grew up as Pam Hroza. Her family built and owned the Avenue Market (now M&W) on Warm Springs Avenue in the early 1950s. They lived in a house behind the market and Lemley worked there most of her childhood, “stocking eggs and all the things a store owner’s kid does,” she said.
Though neither Lemley nor Simplot shopped at the Roosevelt Market as kids — it was the competition, after all — they both have an appreciation for the history of the business and its staying power.
“We always knew (the Roosevelt) and loved it,” Simplot said.“It’s really neat. Any person we’ve told, even if they don’t live around the area, they are so happy about it.”