Dethroned Valu King returns

| Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008

Giant Eagle Inc. is using an old grocery-store name to test a concept that someday could compete with popular discount chains Save-A-Lot and Aldi.

A Valu King Food Market opened this week in the Cleveland suburb of Eastlake, in a former Tops supermarket that O'Hara-based Giant Eagle owns. The concept store is being run separately from the Giant Eagle stores, and at this point, the company said, there are no plans for Valu King outlets in the Pittsburgh area or elsewhere.

The no-frills Ohio store is stocking 6,000 to 8,000 value-priced items in a 28,000-square-foot space, much smaller than today's typical supermarkets. There is no pharmacy, bakery or deli counter, and no overnight hours.

The Valu King store, though, has fresh-cut meat and produce departments -- and shelves stocked with familiar Giant Eagle brands, such as Valu Time, Food Club and Top Care, among other labels. There is also a Dollar Zone, featuring 1,200 items under $1. And Valu King will accept manufacturers' coupons.

Erik Yorke, spokesman for the initial store, said a Youngstown, Ohio, grocery supplier known as Tamarkin Co. owned and operated several Valu King supermarkets in Ohio in the 1980s. Giant Eagle later acquired Tamarkin and inherited the stores, eventually converting them to the Giant Eagle name.

"To my knowledge, there hasn't been a Valu King since," Yorke said, although the new store's concept is much different from the old Valu Kings, which were traditional supermarkets.

He said there are no plans for more stores anywhere.

"We are looking at this really closely, and we hope it is successful -- that we can open further stores down the road -- but it is too early to tell," he said.

Both Save-A-Lot and Aldi -- with formats similar to the new Valu King -- have been boosting their store counts in the Pittsburgh area and elsewhere as consumers become more bargain-conscious. St. Louis-based Save-A-Lot has 23 stores in Western Pennsylvania. Batavia, Ill.-based Aldi has 31 stores in the region and a distribution center in Saxonburg.

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