From: Dave Ruller
Date: 2/12/07 1:05PM
Subject: Grocery in Kent
Given the recent disturbing news about the closing of Giant Eagle, 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 to come in behind them either at their store or at the Tops building.
Gary and Mike are working on setting up meetings with the Giant Eagle owners, as well as the owners of the plaza. Our goal is to try to better understand the decision to close the Kent store, and see if there are opportunties for the city to intervene in order to get them to change their mind. In previous rental rate studies we’ve found that the University Plaza tends to be quite high so this may be part of the reason that the Giant Eagle ownership is looking to leave. As you know, this location is also an “older” style store, so it may well be that the grocery owners decided that they couldn’t compete in that location against area groceries in Stow that had premium facilities. These are the kinds of things we hope to better understand after our meeting.
Gary and Mike are also working on initiating contacts with other prospective grocery stores. I understand from the staff that at various occassions stores like Mark’s or Aldies or the Main Street Market in Solon has had interest in expanding into the Kent market so we’re going to try to reach out to them and see if we can re-energize their interest. We will also talk to Giant Eagle corporate in Pittsburgh to see if they can be encouraged to open a corporate store in Kent, rather than a franchise.
Until we know why Giant Eagle is closing, or what prospective new grocery stores are looking for, I can’t recommend an intervention strategy to Council yet, but I wanted you to know that we are going to do anything we can to fill this gap. I would also suggest that if you have any contacts, or you have any inside information, please share it with us as we try to piece this puzzle together. To be honest, the unofficial channels, e.g., friends, family, may actually prove more productive since the formal channels are being very careful in their release of information.
Gary Locke noted that as the competition has heightened among businesses, in every sector, including grocery, the store owners are much more secretive about their plans to close or open businesses. He said that in the past, companies would call the city or share information informally about the state of their business and any plans they had. Today, he said even when we call them or visit with them, they are very selective in what they reveal.
In the case of Giant Eagle one of our staff people had met with the owners as little as 3 months ago and they had told us that business was good. We’re not sure what necessarily changed in the last 3 months but obviously Saturday’s news took us by surprise given what we had last been told. To further emphasize this point, I know that Wayne has not had success trying to get the store owners to return a phone call to him.
I will keep you posted on this important issue. Just as a point of reference, the Giant Eagle store generates in the neighborhood of $30,000 in income tax receipts, so it has quality of life and economic impacts as well.