New Kensington loses downtown Shop 'n Save

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010

The Shop 'n Save grocery store in Central City Plaza will close Friday, the store's president said.

Joe Spagnolo said the New Kensington store has not been profitable since his family's business acquired it in 2006. Recent economic conditions hit the store hard, he said.

"A business has to be profitable to survive. We're just not profitable," Spagnolo, 51, said from a Shop 'n Save in Delmont, one of five other grocery stores he operates.

Aside from sparse inventory and many empty shelves in various areas of the store Wednesday, there were no signs or indications it was closing soon.

Word that the store is closing bothered a number of shoppers asked about it.

"I hate to see it go," said Jerry McFarland, 71. "I live in Springdale, and there isn't anything there. I have to ride the bus."

For New Kensington resident Jerry Wolfe, the store's closing means he'll have to go to the Giant Eagle. He said he shopped at Shop 'n Save two or three times a week.

"It's very convenient for me before work or after work," Wolfe, 64, said while loading his car.

The store is a source of food for the downtown area's elderly, low-income residents and those without transportation.

"It is very convenient for them," Mayor Tom Guzzo said. "That would have a big impact on their lives. We're very concerned about that."

Dwayne Kendall, 50, of Brackenridge, said he shops the store for its sales once a week. He said he felt bad for the people who live in the area.

"They have really good sales here. I hate to see them close like that," he said, noting "10 for $10" deals in a recent advertisement. "It's just amazing what they have here. I'm lucky I got a vehicle. Hopefully, someone else will move in."

Spagnolo said he is in talks with other retailers about keeping the store open, but would not say with who.

"We're trying to find any viable outlet to keep that open for the community," he said. "We still feel it's a viable location."

Kim McAfoose, president of the city's Redevelopment Authority, said her agency will do everything it can to bring another store to the location.

Guzzo, who said he learned of the store's impending demise from a cashier, said he was concerned about the loss of jobs and the impact on residents in the surrounding area.

"Our biggest push would be to find something to replace it," he said.

The 20,000-square-foot store has about 30 employees.

Spagnolo would not discuss what will happen to them, but said some might find work in the family's other stores.

They operate two Foodland stores and three other Shop 'n Saves in Allegheny, Beaver and Westmoreland counties.

After acquiring it in 2006 from Jim and Judy Remo, Spagnolo said they rehabilitated the store and gave it a face-lift. Although there was talk of adding a pharmacy, that never happened, and no banks were interested in locating there, he said.

Even the name change from Foodland to Shop 'n Save was part of a strategy to draw more business, but it never helped, Spagnolo said.

Spagnolo blamed the economy first and foremost for the store's closing. Heavy competition from Walmart in Frazer, Target in Harmar, Aldi in Lower Burrell and drugstore chains selling groceries drew away penny-pinching consumers.

"People's shopping patterns changed drastically," Spagnolo said. "In a low-income area, they're going to watch what they buy. Even in higher-income areas, they're watching what they buy. It's the only controllable expense you have in your household. Unfortunately, we need to sell to stay profitable."

The building's owner, Ashvin Yajnik of Akron, Ohio, could not be reached for comment.

Spagnolo wanted to thank the people of New Kensington and the surrounding area for supporting them.

"They've been like family to us," he said. "They really have."

Additional Information:

Where to shop now

Where to shop now

The Shop 'n Save in New Kensington's Central City Plaza is set to close Friday.

Here's a look at the nearest major grocery stores and their distance from the Shop 'n Save location:

• Golden Dawn, 2201 Freeport Road, New Kensington • about 2 miles

• Save-A-Lot, 125 Logans Ferry Road, Gateway Plaza, Lower Burrell • about 2 miles

• Aldi, Leechburg Road, 2515 Leechburg Road, Lower Burrell • about 3 miles

• Giant Eagle, 200 Tarentum Bridge Road, New Kensington • about 3 miles

• Community Market, 3220 Leechburg Road, Hillcrest Shopping Center, Lower Burrell • about 4 miles

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