Liquor license could give Ross grocery competitive edge
In a market with five grocery stores along a three-mile stretch in Ross Township, owners of Kuhn's Quality Foods hope to gain an edge by selling beer.
Kuhn's could become the first grocery store on the southern portion of McKnight Road to sell six-packs and draft beer.
“Anything that you can provide the public with is going to give you a leg up,” said Joe Dentici, president of Kuhn's which owns eight local stores.
Kuhn's is awaiting approval of a state liquor license, and plans to open a café that will sell hot food, beer by the glass and six-packs about two months after getting the license. Dentici hopes to open similar cafes in his other stores.
In the last four years, at least two grocery stores have opened on McKnight, the commercial stretch that also includes two Target stores that carry some groceries.
“Obviously, stores are just so competitive now,” said Audrey Guskey, associate professor of marketing at Duquesne University, Uptown. “There are full-out grocery wars happening.”
Locally owned and operated grocery stores are “very rare,” Guskey said, adding that Kuhn's is doing well in the Pittsburgh market, given its size.
“It's very difficult, really almost impossible, for mom-and-pop stores to survive,” Guskey said. “So I really think that for a store like Kuhn's to stay competitive, they need (a liquor license).”
Kuhn's opened in 1984 at 4717 McKnight Road, then moved north to its current location in 2006 when a Shop 'n Save closed. Discount grocer Aldi opened in 2007 behind the Shoppes at Northway.
In 2012, two more discount grocery stores opened side by side in Ross Towne Center. Bottom Dollar Food opened in the summer, and Good Cents Grocery + More opened later that year.
Good Cents is owned by Giant Eagle Inc., which has a location farther north on McKnight Road in McIntyre Square. Beer is sold at that Giant Eagle location.
Each of Giant Eagle's McKnight locations — which include a GetGo gas station at McKnight Road and Browns Lane — fill a “unique consumer need,” company spokesman Dick Roberts said.
A Trader Joe's grocery store is slated to open this summer at McCandless Crossing, which is about a mile north of McIntyre Square on McKnight Road.
“I don't think they can all survive,” said Craig Linner, president of Ross Township Business and Economic Development Inc.
“Kuhn's is the underdog on the block,” he said. “I think getting the liquor license for the café will be good for them.”
The McKnight Aldi's has mirrored the company's national trend of growth, said division Vice President Brent Laubaugh. Company officials select locations based on population density, proximity to competition, cost of property and traffic patterns.
Bottom Dollar spokeswoman Erin DeWaters said the company does not release sales numbers but said the McKnight location has “a lot of loyal customers.”
Kelsey Shea is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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