Pattye Benson

Community Matters

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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  1. Further follow-up to this post —

    Today at Barnes & Noble, Devon, I overheard 2 Genuardi employees discussing the closing of the store — one said that they were going to Wegman’s in Frazer and the other to Giant in Frazer. As I was checking out at B&N, the clerk brought up Genuardi’s — she apparently lives between the St. Davids & Norristown Genuardi stores and frequents both regularly. In our discussion of Genuardi’s Chesterbrook closing, she offered that Safeway has always maintained their St. Davids and Norristown and was so surprised by the poor maintenance of Genuardi in Chesterbrook.

    Interesting that Safeway would seemingly permit the downward spiral of one of their stores . . . but maintain others. I would love to see Trader Joes move from Gateway to the much bigger Genuardi’s location — wouldn’t that be great!

  2. Chesterbrook is a planned community that has never done what it planned — become a mini center of commerce. They have sidewalks, parks, grocery stores….but they have fought off any other development that would help to create a destination — there was to be a barnes&noble in Chesterbrook along with a movie theater center, but the Chesterbrook and Daylesford Lakes people fought it off and settled for another office complex. Barnes and Noble went to the Music Fair area, as did Giant (which was lovely, but boycotted because it was on a site that people associated with the music fair.) So Giant closed and gave way to Wendys, Linens n Things, and Pet Smart. Then LNT went down — as did every other major retailer in that general area except B&N.
    So unless you live there, why drive to Chesterbrook for anything? The hotel there has changed hands so many times I don’t know what it’s called now. The residents of Chesterbrook cannot support the business development there. And Chesterbrook as a destination is not accessible by almost any right-turn access traffic (a key feature when identifying real estate sites for development) It’s the same reason I am skeptical of the town center plan for Paoli Train Station. The only way you will reach that is to turn across traffic unless you are coming from a location that has more convenient alternatives….

    Is there more to the story? Genuardis was local — safeway is national. Our small little township is about the most patriarchal community you will ever encounter. Don’t change anything….

    1. Perhaps the vision of the Board dffered from the vision of the residents? I know these residents can be pretty ornery.

  3. You wrote:

    “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?”

    Since you do not live in Chesterbrook (as I do), please don’t idly speculate on the value of our homes decreasing because Genuardis is closing – what exactly is the basis for your statements one day after this announcement?

  4. Or, according to your twisted logic, those that don’t live near Conestoga Rd. or Old Lancaster, insist on opining as to the ills of the sidewalks or improvements thereof. See your post of 6/21/2010 at 5:06pm.

  5. Every post here is nothing but “opining” — we can speculate whatever….
    Chesterbrook has built walls around itself commercially — fighting to prevent other changes — and apparently did not support their own internal store. Genuardis in St. Davids is in no better shape — just has loyal customers I guess. The Genuardis closing could be negotiated I’m sure if the local residents made a commitment and a noise, much like the Berwyn Acme years ago was kept open for several additional years because residents fought to keep it there on behalf of the elderly locals who relied on the site.
    JP — you certainly do not get to have a more intimate view of Paoli just because you live there. Unlike Chesterbrook, which was built as a planned community that was different from anything around here at the time, Paoli is just another stop on the “Main Line” suburban local…and your living there is no big deal in your standing to contribute to opinions about the transit center and population density issues.

    If I had the energy, I would aggressively fight against any major development in Paoli, as it has already evolved into a hapless business center without any focus or major tenant to lead the charge. Paoli Shopping Center was and is a destination location — but the sprawl down 30 into mini strip centers has done nothing but damage the use of Route 30 as an access road and a business corridor. Inviting more cars into the area presumably in search of these mythical 2000 jobs (which will be for the main, offices moving from other buildings where the landlord won’t do the giveaways that a new building offers to draw tenants) in a community with no income tax will improve the tax base on the property, but I assure you the prior site of these “new jobs” will deteriorate and thus reassess that site value.

    Mike is right — this is a community — and it takes no twisted logic to see that we all have opinions about how this area is changing — and based on our own level of investment (you, John, have continually said you are “outta here” when your last kid graduates” entitles us to express our concerns or opinions about our community. Like Mike, many of us have been here for much of our life and expect to be here for much of the rest of it. Since we are not “outta here” carpetbaggers (who use the services of the schools but never come close to paying for the education as annual taxes are a fraction of the cost as long as you have kids in the system)

    So – Chesterbrook shouldn’t be offended that people are speculating. If they want to maintain the quality of life there, they need to mobilize and talk to Safeway about how to save the location — or they need to find a major tenant they will support and work with the developer/owner of the center to re-energize the site. Real estate is about “location” and the qualities of a location change over time — passive living once the planned community is built out has consequences. Good luck!

  6. The bottom line is that Chesterbrook is a horrible retail location. As one commenter correctly stated, there is no reason why a non-Chesterbrook resident would ever venture into the Chesterbrook retail center. The retail component of Chesterbrook has never really been a viable entity. Their vacancy rates have always been above market with rents well below market. Everything in the center can easily be obtained by non-Chesterbrook residences in other locations.

  7. How can someone ‘fight’ to keep the store open??? If I owned a business, and I wanted to close a store, no fight in the world could keep me there. If I am loosing money, that’s it. If enough people shopped there to begin with, then it wouldn’t be leaving.

    1. CJ, exactly right. What amazes me is that some don’t recognize this. This decision was not the result of some college think session, or philosophy course. I think our educators should teach our kids about BUSINESS. and less about “activism”.

      This is about profit being a dirty word, or misunderstood. If no profit, why be in business?

  8. The rents are very high, and the landlord won’t allow advertising beyond that crappy billboard that spotlights a different retail establishment each month. The Chesterbrook Bar & Grill (i.e. Dylan’s, Wild Tuna, Tupelo’s, Stefano’s, etc, etc.) has had more incarnations than Doctor Who. Also, the parking sucks.

    1. I agree with the high rents — several years ago, I spoke with the owner of Chesterbrook Print. He left the shopping center due to increasing rent and also complained about the lack of support from the shopping center owners. BTW, Chesterbrook Print is still operating (in Devon, by Whole Foods).

      I understand that the Chesterbrook Civic Association has recently re-organized with new leadership; I think a face-to-face with the shopping center owner might be helpful.

      1. I have to wonder about some landlords. gateway is owned by Regency, a huge reit. They booted that chinese restaurant out a couple of years ago because, according to the young family owners, the rent was going to be raised too high.
        As far as I know now, that space is still empty. Without knowing details, it seems to me that the landlord should have been ok with a bit less rent, covering costs and earning a decent profit. I suspect that the costs of acquistion for gateway was high enough, in a rising economic climate that they needed the increased rent to pay the mortgage and thought they would rent w/o a problem. As a landlord myself, I would rather have a slightly LESS profit and have cash flow, positive of course. So with Genuardi’s I have to wonder if the landlord was part of the problem and was unyielding?

        Interesting stuff. Chet

        1. I think you also have to take into consideration that the service and quality of the store suffered significantly once Safeway purchased the chain from the Genuardi family. The service desk is rarely open, they are usually understaffed, and several of the clerks make it obvious they would rather be anywhere but there.

          Many of us who had supported the store stopped shopping there (except for “emergencies”) and, despite the travel time, began patronizing other stores like the Acme in Paoli. Of course, Trader Joes is the store of choice, but they unfortunately don’t carry everything we need.

  9. Chet etal — I was not proposing activism per se to “force” the store to stay open. That is ludicrous. When the community rallied to save the Berwyn Acme, it was on specific grounds on behalf of the community, with commitments from residents to support the store and make more effort to encourage traffic in that direction. Acme clearly had an investment in this community and stuck it out for several more years. Safeway is a business — the developer is a business person — once a planned community is built out, there needs to be more give and take to keep the community vibrant. Instead of shopping elsewhere, activists (if that’s what you want to call them) need to proactively work on behalf of the community to improve the quality of the center — ask for common area space to be dedicated to some important community function and then have meetings there in support of the place…encourage your neighbors to shop there — and remind them that their own convenience is not the only reason it’s there — that their neighbors in many cases rely on the easy access.
    Find out why Safeway is leaving — is it business or lack of support from the mall management? If it’s the latter, then get involved with the mall management….if it’s business, ask what levels of support would it take to change their mind, or what kind of public support would encourage them to rethink it. They have a pretty low penetration in this area — so advertising might not be worthwhile. So look to Wawa? Change the dynamic and suggest a meeting with the WAWA people to build one of their larger stores — do some research amongst yourselves about why Safeway wasn’t the right fit….

    That’s the activism I’m talking about. Don’t wait for some developer or politician to pick up the ball to run….game plan and go for it. It happens all the time…it just takes effort and energy. I think the community is worth it.
    But like the Hawkins property, be careful what you wish for…by refusing things like movie theaters and book stores, Chesterbrook has isolated itself and made a less desirable retail location. The people of Chesterbrook need to do some demographic pro-active research….what kind of site could they support? How can the community help to make something work? An empty center will affect property values — because it will look like a dying location. That’s senseless.

    1. I have to wonder where those Chesterbrook “activists” are, considering they were out in full force to try to deny soccer fields at VFMS, and have been nitpicking just about any issue associated with their planned community. Mr Isleib? I think that was his name? Why doesn’t he and Mr. Defelicantonio (SP) have a show on channel 2 to shill for Chesterbrook and all it has to offer..?

      Shop till you drop…. then take a walk at Wilson???maybe the theme

      1. So true Chet. Barnes and Noble was to be part of a small town feeling with a movie theater and an activity center — where office buildings are. Chesterbrook and Daylesford Lakes fought it — would bring the “wrong element” into the community. That development was prepared to contribute (pay for) the bridge over 202…but instead B&N went down the road to the doomed center (ghost of VF Music Fair means nothing will survive that building — first it was Giant Grocery — a beautiful but untouched store–and then Linens and Thngs…now empty. And I’m guessing those folks in the office buildings are not doing their shopping in Chesterbrook….

        It’s not wrong to say that property values will be affected by the deteriorating state of the shopping center — because it’s all a reminder of how OLD the planned communitiy is. Mr. Fox started this plan in the 70s I think — had space for schools, a shopping center, at one time (I think?) a Post office, sidewalks and parks (and now Wilson Park)….everything the sidewalk project claims a community wants….

        Not trying to pre-judge why Genuardi’s is leaving….would love to hear an announcement that Giant or something comparable is coming! But Chet — I agree — where is Mr. Isleib now and who is he protecting or promoting?

        1. what you describe is exactly what is going to happen at Worthington and eventually at the UpperMerion Golf Course. Give people a reason to go there and they will, and maybe they will go back, and shop eat and check out a movie, or just hang out at an outdoor pavilion. Too bad for Chesterbrook. That is a nice place to live, housing wise, but there is an air of supression and uptightedness that serves as a wet blanket. Maybe this is really what the residents want.. just another neighborhood, which is fine, but don’t cry over stores moving out.

          I will think better of it if something worthwhile moves in. There is always HOPE and CHANGE! Ha.

  10. There is a lot of misinformation on the board today. Just because someone tells you rents are high doesn’t mean they are high in the context of surrounding areas. Also, Gateway is owned by Centro Properties, not Regency.

  11. So, three years since Ginardi’s at Chesterbrook has closed. As of August 31, 2013, the store is still empty. The shopping Center was less than active as I had remembered in the 90’s when I worked in the business area of the center. It was actually void of people at all beyond the operators of the stores I saw which were still in business such as the Pizza Shop.

    An other market has not gone in, even since the Giant chain has now occupied much of the former Ginardi’s locations.

    Speculation is fine, just as long as it is kept in context with reality.


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