New supermarket restocks hopes

Govans Save-A-Lot store adds to city inventory

February 14, 2002|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

Barbara Griffin doesn't know much about the Save-A-Lot chain. But she hopes the grocery store scheduled to open today in Govans, a block north of her senior housing development, spares her the hassle of having to travel long distances for bare necessities.

"We need a supermarket in this area because most of us are disabled, and it's very inconvenient to have to go all the way to the Giant" about a mile away, across the city-county line, said Griffin 63, a resident of Govans Manor in the 5200 block of York Road in Northeast Baltimore.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned at 8:20 a.m., 10 minutes before the store is scheduled to open for business. City Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano and several community leaders are expected to attend.

Save-A-Lot has more than 900 stores nationwide, but the one in the 5300 block of York Road -- opening at the former Food King, which closed last summer -- will be the city's first, said housing spokesman Kevin Brown.

It's part of Mayor Martin O'Malley's effort to lure more grocery stores to Baltimore, which has lost supermarkets as its population has dwindled. City officials estimate Baltimore has 40 to 50 supermarkets for its 651,000 residents.

"Supermarkets are vital components of healthy and stable communities," Deputy Mayor Laurie Schwartz said. "The administration is reaching out to local, regional and national supermarket operators to attract them to the city and to help serve our citizens."

Schwartz said officials have "identified key areas within the city that are under-served" and Govans was among them.

"This one is, as we understand it, the first corporate Save-A-Lot to open in the city, and is going to include a more expansive offering than some other Save-A-Lot stores," Schwartz said.

Brown said the store will carry about 1,250 of the most frequently purchased items, including fresh meats, fruits and vegetables, dairy products, canned goods and frozen foods.

The last major supermarket to open in the city was a Giant on Edmondson Avenue in 1998. Just before that, Giant closed two area stores; and in 2000, all Super Pride markets shut down.

A second corporate Save-A-Lot is scheduled to open Feb. 21 at 250 McMechen St. in Bolton Hill.

Just last month, city officials announced plans to work with Giant Food Inc. to build a supermarket in a Northeast Baltimore neighborhood, and in as many as three other yet-unidentified city sites.

"There are a number of others we're working on but can't talk about publicly yet," Schwartz said.

Kevin Malachi, director of the city's commercial revitalization division, worked with Save-A-Lot officials to identify Govans and other possible locations for stores.

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