Hill District residents lament Shop ‘n Save’s closing
Residents of Pittsburgh’s Hill District aren’t happy they will soon be without a grocery store.
The Shop ‘n Save in the Centre Heldman Plaza along Centre Avenue will close March 20, a little more than five years after it opened to fanfare as the first full-service grocery store in the neighborhood in more than three decades.
It was disappointing news to residents but not a surprise to community leaders, who said sales weren’t what was expected when the store opened in October 2013.
“For this to happen is just not right. It’s just not right,” said Dolores Bailey. “The store means a whole lot, because it’s right here in the neighborhood.”
Bailey, 72, who lives in Skyline Terrace, less than half a mile away from the store, said that when she often walks down to the store.
“I’m done and go on back home instead of waiting on the bus,” she said.
The 29,500-square-foot store was part of a project spearheaded by the Hill House Association and Economic Development Corp. that built the $11.5 million grocery and adjoining retail space in the Centre Heldman Plaza along Centre Avenue. The project used nearly $4 million in public subsidies despite criticism that the neighborhood could not sustain a supermarket.
A 2015 Rand Corp. study found that 68 percent of the Hill’s 10,450 residents visited the store at least once monthly, a number the store’s owner, Jeff Ross, who operates six other Shop ‘n Saves in the region, would like to see increase, he said then.
But in 2015, sales were up about $2,000 per month — about 2 percent — over 2014, Ross told the Tribune-Review at the time.
“It’s not anything anybody’s going to get rich on, put it that way, but it’s sustainability,” Ross said.
Ross didn’t return repeated messages seeking comment for this story.
Calielle Howie, 27, who also lives nearby called the closing a “major hurt-piece” to the area.
“It’s going to be a financial burden and just a burden in general,” Howie said.
Leonard Coleman, 64, said a supermarket is good for any neighborhood.
“But especially here because we have nothing else up here. There’s nowhere else to go,” he said.
“Obviously a supermarket is good for any neighborhood, but especially here because we have nothing else up here. There’s nowhere else to go.”
Hill House Association Board Chairwoman Emma Lucas-Darby said the store never performed at the levels the feasibility study projected.
“We regret that it has come to this point,” Lucas-Darby said. “Hill House realizes that a grocery store is a valuable asset to any community, and that is why we are working to bring in a new operator. We are hoping the city will help us in that effort. We’re trying to do all we can to make sure there is a grocery store on the hill.”
In a prepared statement, the Hill House board said its been working for more than a year to “solve the challenges with the retail outlets in the Centre Heldman Plaza,” according to the statement.
“We continue to have active discussions with public officials with the ultimate goal of ensuring that they Hill District community continues to have access to a grocery store. Our hope is for a new operator to be identified,” the statement said.
Peduto declined to name the other grocery store, but said it’s an existing business within the city.
It isn’t Giant Eagle.
“While we have communicated to Centre Heldman Plaza management that occupying the soon-to-be vacant site is not an option for Giant Eagle at this time, we are considering alternate solutions to provide the community,” Giant Eagle spokeswoman Jannah Jablonowski said Friday.
The company did tout its Curbside Express service that enables Giant Eagle to make deliveries where it doesn’t have a location.
“We are actively exploring opportunities to make this service a more viable option for area residents in an effort to ensure that everyone has access to high-quality groceries,” Jablonowski said.
Peduto said Hill District demographics are about to change with the Penguins’ redevelopment of the 28-acre former Civic Arena site, which will include a significant residential component, and new housing in other parts of the neighborhood.
Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter .