Store leaves locals hungry

Giant Eagle’s closing upsets residents

The dairy case is bare today at Giant Eagle. The locally owned store is slated to close Feb 23rd.

Laura Torchia | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

Inside the Giant Eagle at University Plaza, a dozen people are doing some early morning shopping. The shelves in the fresh fruit section are bare, the milk is gone and the bread is sold out.

By next Friday, the store will be closed, leaving Kent without a supermarket. The closest one will be Acme on state Route 59 in Franklin Township.

Doria Daniels, chairperson of the Thomas-Anderson Development Corp., wrote to Ward 3 councilman Wayne Wilson to express concerns of the community.

“The recent announcement of the closing of the Giant Eagle store on South Water and the previous closing of Tops is just unacceptable to our area residents, especially the aged and disabled residents of Tower 43,” Daniels wrote.

In response to Daniels’ e-mail, City Manager Dave Ruller shared an e-mail he also sent to city council members on Tuesday.

“I wanted to let you know that I met with the senior staff this morning to brainstorm strategies to either convince the owners of Giant Eagle to change their mind, or to find another grocery store to come in behind them either at their store or at the Tops building,” Ruller wrote.

Ruller added that the store generates $30,000 in annual income tax revenues, a loss that will impact the city’s economy.

According to a Giant Eagle news release issued Feb. 9, the owners, Mark and Eric Seiler, decided to close the store because they were unable to reach and maintain the sales volumes necessary to operate profitably.

Councilman Wayne Wilson, whose ward includes the area, said the city has been trying to contact Giant Eagle so that they can get a better understanding of the decision to close the store.

“We’re also talking to other grocery stores to see whether they are interested in expanding in the Kent market,” Wilson said. Marc’s, Aldi Foods and Acme Market are all being considered.

Bob Irr of JJ Gumberg Co., the company which owns University Plaza, said Giant Eagle is well into the 15-year lease they signed, leaving the building free for another business to move in.

“We’re talking to several prospects,” Irr said. “So far we can’t give any specifics to who is considering moving in.”

Wilson said the plaza needs another grocery store because a lot of people walk to get their groceries, including residents in neighboring Tower 43, an apartment community mainly focused on the elderly.

Nancy Cole, property manager of Tower 43, said many residents use their power wheelchairs to go get groceries.

“A lot of the residents are 80 years of age or older. About 20 percent of them no longer drive,” Cole said. “It will be quite an ordeal to go somewhere else.”

She said the residents used to shop at Tops, so it’s even more unfortunate that after Tops closed in 2005, now the residents can’t go to Giant Eagle anymore either.

Matt J. McGill, project manager of McGill Property Group who owns the old Tops building, said that they don’t have any new tenants yet.

Rite Aid manager Linda Risner said her store, also in University Plaza, carries limited groceries. Starting this week Rite Aid will begin stocking bread, Risner said.

Wilson said that by stocking up on staple foods, Rite Aid is helping out those people without transportation.

Risner said she doesn’t know the impact Giant Eagle’s closing will have on the rest of the plaza.

“It could either hurt us or help us,” she said.

Tami Dewall, manager of Dollar General, said Giant Eagle’s closing will probably provide her store with a boost in sales.

Vanessa Canavan, employee at the Fashion Bug, said Giant Eagle is the anchor of University Plaza.

“With Giant Eagle closing, I think all the other businesses will lose profit,” she said. “Our customers usually stop by after they’ve done their grocery shopping.”

There are about a dozen stores and businesses located in the plaza that will be affected by the store closing. Giant Eagle was the third grocery store to occupy the location and has been in the plaza since 2001.

Contact public affairs reporter Kurt Jakub at [email protected].

Contact public affairs reporter Charlotte Muller at [email protected].

Contact public affairs reporter Tara Pringle at [email protected].