Genuardi’s

Be Careful What You Wish For . . . Bottom Dollar Food Coming to Chesterbrook

Back on July 30, I wrote the following article about the Bottom Dollar Food grocery store chain coming to the Philadelphia area and opening a store in King of Prussia.  In the article, Discount Grocery Store ‘Bottom Dollar Food’ Coming to Philadelphia Area. I commented on the differences between the newly opened Wegmans vs the ‘no-frills’ discount grocery chain, Bottom Dollar. 

Wegmans opening this summer, fell on the heels of the closing of Genuardi’s in Chesterbrook.  There are other empty stores in the Chesterbrook Shopping Center and those that have remained since Genuardi’s closing have struggled.  I heard that since the closing of Genuardi’s that the Hair Cuttery is loosing an average of $600/wk in revenue.  The emptiness is particularly noticeable at lunchtime. Many in the community have speculated and wondered as to the future of the real estate.

We don’t have to speculate any longer.  Today, I received news that Bottom Dollar Food has signed a 5-year lease with Centro Properties and will open in the old Genuardi’s location. (Not sure of the opening date).  When reviewing the location plans for Chesterbrook’s Bottom Dollar, I noted they will subdivide the Genuardi’s space.  Originally, Genuardi’s had approx. 38,500 sq. ft. of space but Bottom Dollar is only leasing 26,000 sq. ft leaving a space of 12,500 sq. ft. (next to Fitness Together) still available.  The original entry of Genuardi’s is now in the ‘available space’, suggesting that Bottom Dollar will move their entry location.

In the last paragraph of my July 30th post, I asked the question, ” . . .  would people rather see an empty anchor store in the Chesterbrook Shopping Center as opposed to some kind of discount store?”   And here we are 3 months later, with Bottom Dollar discount food chain coming to Chesterbrook!

In catching up on some of the local business news, I was reading about the local grocery market and was interested to read about a new grocery chain coming to the area, Bottom Dollar Food.

We know that Wegmans next step on their expansion plan is King of Prussia (I think the old golf course off Swedesford, correct?) so I was curious if our area would be getting one of these discount grocery stores.  Bottom Dollar Food is a discount grocer that’s part of the Food Lion store chain and has said that it will open 21 stores in Philadelphia and surrounding areas, creating 600 jobs.  A friend recently visited our new Wegmans and asked management how many employees in that location — yes, 600. 

This is a significant expansion for the Salisbury, N.C.-based Bottom Dollar Food, which has 28 stores in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland. I did a bit of research on the company – they opened their first store in 2005, 5 years ago!   They seemed to have discovered a niche market-place by keeping their stores very simple in design.  One of the ways they are able to drive the prices down to bargain-basement level is by removing the fancy, expensive displays.  Interesting concept given Wegmans over-the-top approach!  They keep the isles wide, displays simple and have a color-coding system showing the various levels of mark-downs.  Special ’bargain’ areas in the stores are indicated with color-coded signage.  Kind of reminds me of the Syms approach – you read the price tag and the date determines the price.  The longer the item remains at Syms, the lower the price.

Bottom Dollar Food will open their first Philadelphia area store in the fall.  The president of the Bottom Dollar Food Meg Ham, reports that  “Bottom Dollar Food has great potential in the market as we believe it is underserved in the soft-discount grocer arena”.  Interesting.

However, the most interesting point of the article was the list of new store locations, including  197 E. Dekalb Pike, Upper Merion (King of Prussia).  Short of driving up 202 north and looking for the address, I’m wondering if that is the Genuardi’s store on 202?  I looked at all the stores on the list and unfortunately a Chesterbrook location was not on the list.  But that poses an interesting question, would people rather see an empty anchor store in the Chesterbrook Shopping Center as opposed to some kind of discount store?

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Community Matters Mentioned in Philadelphia Inquirer front page article!

I looked cover to cover in Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer for the article on Genuardi’s, but nothing.  However this morning the article appears on the front page of today’s paper!  An interesting article, the writer explains the dynamics of the supermarket world, in particular the downturn of Genuardi’s grocery chain and the threat that Wegmans poses to local supermarkets.  I was so excited to see ‘Community Matters’ get a mention – it’s validating, especially because there are some who may question the value (or influence) of a blog. 

With a root canal scheduled for later this morning, I will take this as a good omen for the day!

Genuardi’s is closing another supermarket

By Kathy Boccella
Inquirer Staff Writer

Here we go again.The venerable Genuardi’s supermarket chain is closing another store. This time it’s the Towamencin Village Square market in Lansdale, which will shut down Saturday, nearly 20 years to the day after it opened. Lately, it seems as if every month brings a new Genuardi’s closing. Last spring, the Voorhees store went out of business, followed by one in the Edgemont Square Shopping Center in Newtown Square in July and two in August – in Tredyffrin’s Chesterbrook community and the Glen Eagle Shopping Center in Concord.

The problem for Genuardi’s is that Philadelphia is “overstored,” said Richard George, a professor of food marketing at St. Joseph’s University. From Walgreens to Wawa to Wegmans, a bounty of food retailers is making it hard for traditional stores to stay afloat.

“There are too many stores selling food in too concentrated an area,” said Jeff Metzger, publisher of Food Trade News, a food-industry publication.

Genuardi’s spokeswoman Maryanne Crager agreed that the competitive array was staggering. “At one time a drugstore might have one little aisle with chips. Now they sell yogurt, cheese. Everybody is trying to get a piece of the pie, and the pie is only so big,” she said, citing such nontraditional food sellers as Target and CVS.

With the latest closing, Genuardi’s now has 31 supermarkets in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, down from 39 when monster food company Safeway Inc. bought the chain from the family of founder Gaspare Genuardi and his wife, Josephine, in 2001. The Lansdale store, whose lease expires at the end of the month, was closed because it was not as profitable as expected, Crager said. The company will try to find openings at other Genuardi’s for the store’s 45 employees, as it has done at previously shuttered markets, but not everyone is able or willing to relocate, she said. She would not say how many workers had been laid off.

The job outlook, not surprisingly, is not great. Wendell W. Young IV, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1776, said grocery stores had slowed or stopped hiring to offset lower profits.

Many of the new stores coming into the region are lower-end markets that pay minimum wage. And most supermarket employees are part time, working 25 to 30 hours a week, he said.

While Genuardi’s is downsizing, another chain is cementing its reputation as a local category killer. Wegmans, whose massive take-and-go prepared-food sections are magnets to busy suburbanites, opened a 130,000-square-foot megastore in Malvern in July, bringing to six the number of regional Wegmans, three of them in the greater King of Prussia area. Wegmans and other upscale niche retailers such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are muscling out middle-of-the-road supermarkets such as Genuardi’s, say the experts.

“Pathmark is closing, Super Freshes are closing. It’s that big middle that are neither the low-price guy like Wal-Mart and Save-A-Lot, yet don’t have the cachet of Wegmans and Trader Joe’s,” George said. “So people say, ‘Why do I shop there?’ ”

At Genuardi’s in Lansdale, few were shopping on a recent afternoon, despite a 20 percent-off sale that had already cleaned out many aisles. Employees looked as grim as pallbearers.

“It’s very, very sad,” said customer Nancy Demetrius, a mother of four who lives around the corner from the supermarket and says she shops there once or twice a week. “They’re very nice people here, very helpful.” She was picking up milk and chili fixings with her 3-year-old daughter, Camryn. The family did most of its shopping at Genuardi’s, she said, even renting movies at the Red Box out front. “At parties, if we needed rolls, soda, we’d run to Genuardi’s,” she said. She said she would miss the quality of the meats and produce. “Excellent, excellent.” Her children will miss the free cookies from the bakery.

The Lansdale area is a microcosm of the “overstore” phenomenon. There is a Super Fresh less than a mile away, although that, too, is closing, and an Acme and Giant nearby. A new ShopRite is expected to rise not far from Genuardi’s. Demetrius said she would probably shop at Giant. “It’s cheaper, but the quality is not as good,” she said. “You do what you have to do.”

Though the Lansdale store seemed robust to shoppers, other locations languished before finally going dark. The Chesterbrook Genuardi’s in Tredyffrin was “dated” and not maintained, said Pattye Benson, a Malvern bed-and-breakfast owner, who raves on her Community Matters blog about the gelato kiosk, 800 kinds of beer and large take-out section at the new Wegmans.

“Safeway took absolutely no interest in maintaining that store. . . . It just went downhill,” she said.

For many people, Genuardi’s was never the same after the corporate giant bought it from Gaspare and Josephine’s children, who transformed their vegetable garden in Norristown into one of the area’s most beloved businesses.

The company replaced many favorite Genuardi’s brands with Safeway products and downgraded two benchmarks of the Genuardi’s stores – produce and deli items, Metzger said. The Genuardi family “ran that store with terrific products and tremendous customer service,” said George. Safeway “lost sight of the customer,” he said. “Genuardi’s,” he said, “used to stand for something.”

Still, some Genuardi’s stores are now busier than ever and offer more locally grown produce, as Gaspare and Josephine did in the old days. Smaller than many other market leaders, between April 2009 and March 2010 Genuardi’s was the fifth-highest-grossing supermarket company in the region, with 38 stores and $983 million in sales. The leader was ShopRite, whose 67 stores earned $2.6 billion, according to Food Trade News.

Wegmans’ six stores had $364 million in sales, making it the sixth-largest in the area. Companies showing the biggest decline were Acme, which lost its number-one post after 32 years, Genuardi’s, and Giant.

Crager said Genuardi’s had no plans to close more stores but acknowledged the challenges for the chain. Referring back to her pie analogy, she said: “Some of the slices for some operators are getting smaller and smaller. Obviously when you get smaller . . . it becomes more challenging to operate.”

On the bright side, “We’re part of a much larger corporation,” she said.

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Inquirer Writer Asks About Genuardi’s & Wegmans . . . Bottom Dollar Food Opens Today . . . Wonder if There’s a Connection

Some people are going to start claiming that I have a fetish for grocery stores but I am fascinated by the closing and opening of supermarkets . . . particularly with today’s economy.  

Yesterday, a writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer contacted me in regards to the closing of Genuardi’s and my fascination with Wegmans.  She is writing an article for the Sunday edition of the newspaper and had tracked me down through Community Matters, having read my posts on Genuardi’s and Wegmans.  We had an interesting conversation and I will be curious to see how much of our discussion ultimately ends up in Sunday’s article.  The writer asked a variety of questions, including why I thought that Genuardi’s had failed.  I gave a degree of credit on that topic to the Safeway people.  In my opinion, the store was never maintained properly nor updated.  (Chesterbrook residents will be pleased that the focus of the article will not be on whether the closing of the Genuardi’s will affect real estate values).

I wonder if the Inquirer’s article on supermarkets has a connection to the opening today of the discount supermarket, Bottom Dollar Food, this morning in King of Prussia.  When I called to verify that the store had opened and find out where it was located, a very enthusiastic customer service representative greeted me.  She didn’t know exactly where on Rt. 202 it was located, stating that she was from Virginia and had moved with Bottom Dollar to King of Prussia.  I think that we figured it was on the right side of 202 North – she says that there is a Petco and Staples in the shopping center with Bottom Dollar Food.

The president of Bottom Dollar Food, Meg Ham, explains the concept of her discount supermarket saying,  “We call ourselves a soft discount chain and what that means is that we’re discount, but with a full shop experience and we offer national brands as well as private brands, which is a little bit different and we have full shop, which includes fresh departments.”

The store cites examples of savings – they sell Breyers Ice Cream for $3.38 but their own “Hannaford” brand is $2.68 and a “Smart Option” bargain brand is $1.98.  Another example – You can buy Charmin bath tissue for $2.85, Bottom Dollar Food’s “Home 360” brand for $2.50, or the “Smart Option” for $.98 for four rolls.

Bottom Dollar has some interesting ways to cut waste and save energy.  They keep the fresh produce in a giant walk-in cooler section which gives it a longer shelf life.  Since they are not throwing away as much spoiled produce, they can keep the produce prices lower (and hope to undercut the competition).  The store is utilizing doors on the dairy cases to keep cold air in and reduce energy usage. The King of Prussia store has 19,000 square-feet and  will offer more than 6,800 items.

In addition to bargain grocery shopping, the Bottom Dollar Food chain claims that each store will require the hiring of 30-35 employees.  (This is interesting, considering that Wegmans claimed to have hired 500 people with their store’s opening). The King of Prussia store is the first of 15-20 Bottom Dollar Food stores scheduled for the Philadelphia area.

As part of the grand opening festivities, Bottom Dollar Food donated $10,000 to the Philabundance Food Bank, and donated $500 to the Upper Merion Township Police Department and Fire Department.  In addition, $500 donations were made to the Upper Merion Township Emergency Fund and Lafayette Ambulance and Rescue Squad.

Wonder what it would take for Bottom Dollar Food to get interested in the Genuardi’s site in Chesterbrook?  It will be curious to see if Bottom Dollar Food gets mentioned in Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer article on local supermarkets.  I’m also curious to see if Community Matters gets a mention in the article . . . my guess, probably not.

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The Final Curtain for Genaurdi’s in Chesterbrook . . . Tomorrow at 6 PM

Maybe it’s because I live in a 300-yr. old house or maybe it’s because I’m getting older . . . but I don’t handle change very well.  I find certain kinds of change can be unsettling and almost depressing.

A couple of friends had mentioned stopping by Genuardi’s in Chesterbrook this week to say good-bye to staff and to have a final look so yesterday I stopped by the store.  As I walked to the front door, the floral lady was leaving the store with a cart full of floral accessories.  I asked her if she was going to another store, she said no and further remarked, that at her age no one wanted her. She thought she would just stay home, play with the grandchildren and catch up on her reading.

As I entered the store and walked the aisles, it was a  very eerie feeling.  Aisles that would normally be overflowing with product and people now were just empty.  I’m guessing that about 80% of the shelves and counters were cleared in anticipation of Saturday’s closing.  The pizza guy told a customer he could make him a cold sandwich but the heating elements had been disconnected so he could not prepare any hot foods.  The deli had a couple of items left and the sushi chef was making up final orders.  Workmen were dismantling shelving and taking down signs.  I stopped by a cashier to wish her well . . . she told me that it was her last day, she was leaving Genuardi’s after 15 years.  It was my understanding that the employees had been offered jobs at other stores but she explained that only part-time positions were offered; no one received an offer of full-time employment regardless of years of service.  I have to believe that Mr. Genuardi who started the chain in the 1920’s would be none too pleased with the treatment of these employees. 

Genuardi’s in Chesterbook will officially close its doors tomorrow at 6 PM – Manhattan Bagel is having a send-off for the employees at 7 PM. 

I guess I could feel better about the closing of Genuardi’s if I was confident that this shopping center would rise as Phoenix from the ashes.  But something tells me that it’s going to be a long time before we see a new tenant in this space.  Will the Rite Aid, Subway and others be far behind . . . ? 

This is not intended to be negative but rather a realistic view of what may likely (or rather unlikely) happen to the Chesterbrook Shopping Center. A real ‘sign of our times’ in our own backyard. 

For those that have lived in Chesterbrook and the immediate area for a long time, maybe you want to stop by in the next 24 hours before Genuardi’s closes their doors. 

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Discount Grocery Store ‘Bottom Dollar Food’ Coming to Philadelphia Area

In catching up on some of the local business news, I was reading about the local grocery market and was interested to read about a new grocery chain coming to the area, Bottom Dollar Food.

We know that Wegmans next step on their expansion plan is King of Prussia (I think the old golf course off Swedesford, correct?) so I was curious if our area would be getting one of these discount grocery stores.  Bottom Dollar Food is a discount grocer that’s part of the Food Lion store chain and has said that it will open 21 stores in Philadelphia and surrounding areas, creating 600 jobs.  A friend recently visited our new Wegmans and asked management how many employees in that location — yes, 600. 

This is a significant expansion for the Salisbury, N.C.-based Bottom Dollar Food, which has 28 stores in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland. I did a bit of research on the company – they opened their first store in 2005, 5 years ago!   They seemed to have discovered a niche market-place by keeping their stores very simple in design.  One of the ways they are able to drive the prices down to bargain-basement level is by removing the fancy, expensive displays.  Interesting concept given Wegmans over-the-top approach!  They keep the isles wide, displays simple and have a color-coding system showing the various levels of mark-downs.  Special ‘bargain’ areas in the stores are indicated with color-coded signage.  Kind of reminds me of the Syms approach — you read the price tag and the date determines the price.  The longer the item remains at Syms, the lower the price.

Bottom Dollar Food will open their first Philadelphia area store in the fall.  The president of the Bottom Dollar Food Meg Ham, reports that  “Bottom Dollar Food has great potential in the market as we believe it is underserved in the soft-discount grocer arena”.  Interesting.

However, the most interesting point of the article was the list of new store locations, including  197 E. Dekalb Pike, Upper Merion (King of Prussia).  Short of driving up 202 north and looking for the address, I’m wondering if that is the Genuardi’s store on 202?  I looked at all the stores on the list and unfortunately a Chesterbrook location was not on the list.  But that poses an interesting question, would people rather see an empty anchor store in the Chesterbrook Shopping Center as opposed to some kind of discount store?  Comments . . .

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Genuardi’s Closing . . . 3-1/2 weeks and counting . . . Questions Remain

Many of us have been distracted by the excitement of recent opening of Wegmans grocery store.  However, in about 3-1/2 weeks, the Chesterbrook community and its neighbors (me included) are going to be faced with the stark reality of the closing of Genuardi’s grocery store.  Citing economic reasons for the closing by the owners of the store (Safeway), the announced closing date is August 21.

Last month when I discussed Genuardi’s closing and the effect that it might have on the Chesterbrook community, it was met with some criticism. But I think over the last 30 days since the owners announced the store’s closing,  the impact of the closure has begun to set in; there has been a growing concern by members of the Chesterbrook community relating to several issues. For those residents living in Chesterbrook that do not have access to cars, Genuardi’s closing may present a negative impact on their health and economy without easy access to a local full-service grocery store.  I have received several emails from retirees who depend on Genuardi’s (and also the drug store which is rumored to be the next to close) for their shopping needs as well as medical needs.

I know some bristled when I questioned whether a large empty store in a shopping center could have an adverse affect on local housing values.  From a long-range standpoint, it would probably be a reasonable guess that an empty anchor store in a residential community shopping area is unlikely to ‘increase’ the value of neighboring properties.  We can hope that the shopping center continues to be completely maintained while the space remains vacant and available for lease.

In addition to concern about the loss of a convenient Chesterbrook grocery store and the effect that Genuardi’s closing may (or may not) have on property values, there has been an undercurrent of scuttlebutt on the overall future of the shopping center (not just the grocery store space).  I received the following email this morning, which prompted this post: 

Good morning Pattye,

I found your June 22nd article about the Genuardi’s closing very informative. I sent it to a friend of mine who remains insistent that the Shopping Center has been sold to a developer who will be turning it into some kind of retirement center. I tried to google that info but came up empty. Can you offer a definitive answer to this issue? There is a dinner bet at stake…lol.

Thanks.

Rumors continue to swirl that Chesterbrook Shopping Center has been sold to a developer and the property will be re-designed as a retirement center.  At the July Board of Supervisors meeting, township manager Mimi Gleason was questioned about this rumor.  Her response was that she knew of no sale of the property, and further stated that the township had not been approached with a proposed land development project for the property.

I contacted the leasing agent for Chesterbrook at Centro Property but my call has not yet been returned.  Their website indicates that Genuardi’s space of 38,502 sq. ft. is available for lease.  I reviewed the floorplan of Chesterbrook Shopping Center on Centro’s website and counted the total number of rental units in the Chesterbrook Shopping Center as 42 separate units.  I then counted those units that are indicated as ‘available for lease’ and the number was 19.  Nearly one-half of the available units in the shopping center are now available for lease,  including Genuardi’s.  With the addition of Genuardi’s grocery store to the list of ‘available for lease’ units in Chesterbrook Shopping Center, my guess is that greater than 50% of total square footage in the shopping center is now empty.

With an approximate 50% occupancy rate in Chesterbrook Shopping Center (after Genuardi’s closes) I think that there is need for real concern.  For those of you who live in one of the villages of Chesterbrook, how do you feel?  Where does the Chesterbrook Civic Association stand on this?  Is there any kind of pro-active movement by the residents to help turn the commercial area of Chesterbrook around? 

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Genuardi’s in Chesterbrook is Closing . . . just another sign of the times, or is there more to this story?

For nearly 30 years, many in the community had shopped at the family owned Genuardi’s in Chesterbrook.   However, since Safeway purchased Genuardi’s a few years back, there has been a slow decline in the store, the number of shoppers and as we now know sales.  A spokesperson for the store publically announced the store will close as of August 21.  Stating economic reasons for the closing, management will attempt to transfer employees to other store locations, if possible.

The empty store issue is certainly not unfamiliar in Tredyffrin as more and more retailers are negatively impacted by the changing economic climate. At first glance, you might be tempted to think Genuardi’s closing is no different from the closing of Circuit City or Charlie Browns Resturant, but there’s more to this picture. 

For those residents living in Chesterbrook that do not have access to cars, Genuardi’s closing may present a negative impact on their health and economy without easy access to a local full-service grocery store.  I can cite several people who I know who downsized their large homes in the township to move in to one of the township developments of Chesterbrook  . . . this move would simplify their lives; perhaps they could get rid of one car (or both) and walk or bicycle to Genuardi’s or the drug store.  After all, when Chesterbrook was developed 30 years ago, it was an award-winning community where people could live, work, shop and play.  Part of this marketing concept was the ‘shop’ component, which included a full-service grocery store.

Unlike the retail stores that may close along Rt. 252 or Lancaster Avenue, the Chesterbrook Shopping Center is the core of Chesterbrook, it’s their town center. I would think some of the real estate values of the townhouses and condos that neighbor Chesterbrook Shopping Center may be predicated on the convenience this shopping center provided.  Do you think that the empty grocery store is going to create a negative impression for house hunters in Chesterbrook?  Or, that perhaps the home sale prices will be driven downward by the empty store?

As Chesterbrook residents have found out about Genuardi’s closing, there has been growing concern for the future of other stores in the shopping center.  A concerned Chesterbrook resident sent me the following email:

” . . .We just heard officially that Genuardis will be closing 8/21. This will impact many of our older residents who must rely on walking to Genuardis to get their food. Unofficially we have heard that once Genuardis leaves Rite Aid will soon be behind it. This will hurt the look of the neighborhood and decrease our values. . . “

The closing of Genuardi’s represents much more than just a sign of the economic times.  There may be far-reaching ramifications, . . . that is unless a new grocery store tenant can be found to fill the empty space.  Here’s hoping that the void is filled before there is any further loss to the Chesterbrook community.

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