Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Chesterbrook

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 . . .

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?

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.

Local Nonprofit Organization has Apartment For Rent in Historic Revolutionary General's House

General DuPortail House

Do you know someone who would enjoy the unique experience of living in a Revolutionary War General’s headquarters? I serve on the Board of Directors for historic DuPortail House in Chesterbrook and the home’s 2-BR apartment is now available for rent. I’m sure that most people don’t realize that there is a rental apartment, located on the 2nd floor of the 270-yr. old stone farmhouse. The DuPortail House property also contains a rental cottage on the grounds (the cottage is currently leased). Up until a few weeks ago, the house apartment was rented by a lovely young professional but unfortunately Rachel’s company went through an acquistion, she lost her job and was forced in to moving to her parents home.

The DuPortail House board is now trying to find a new tenant; below is the Craigslist posting for this wonderful historic apartment. For information or to see the apartment, please contact me at pattye@greatvalleyhouse.com .

Apartment has two bedrooms, one bath, kitchen and living room on second floor of historic DuPortail House in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County. Includes a room A/C and washer and dryer in basement. Rent is $1100 per month, including untilities. Close to shopping and Route 202. Located in lovely park setting in Chesterbrook. Quiet small pet permitted with additional security deposit.

DuPortail House and the Federal Barn in Chesterbrook are both on the National Register of Historic Places. DuPortail House is available to rent for weddings, receptions, corporate meetings, etc. There are ongoing maintenance costs in the preservation of this historic landmark property and our nonprofit board struggles to meet these financial demands. The rental of the house, the cottage and the apartment are required just to meet the monthly costs of the house and grounds. We can not afford to have the apartment vacant – please, if you know someone who may be interested, I ask you to pass the information along. If you want details of renting the house for a meeting or special event, contact Event Cordinator Kate Frey, 610.644.4840 or visit the website.

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