Grocery store might expand

Work eyed for Safeway in Kings Contrivance

Company, residents talk

Coffee shop, bank among proposals


August 19, 2002|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Safeway Inc. is considering expanding a grocery store in Kings Contrivance Village Center, a move welcomed by community leaders who say the store needs improvement.

The decision on expansion of the store is expected within three months, but in preliminary talks with residents, the company discussed the possibility of demolishing a former Friendly's restaurant adjacent to the building to increase square footage.

Safeway spokesman Craig Muckle said that if the company decides to expand the store, it likely would add convenience services to the store and renovate existing space.

"If we expand, we're trying to expand the overall availability of regular products, but also we try to throw some other services in," Muckle said. "We may put [in] a Starbucks Coffee; it may include a SunTrust bank; it may be a Bergman's dry cleaners. We may add a one-hour photo. It's those kinds of things that enhance our overall package."

According to community leaders, any change would be helpful. Kirk Halpin, a Columbia councilman who represents Kings Contrivance, said community members see the store as a "large convenience store," and that residents do the bulk of their shopping elsewhere.

"Everyone would love for it to expand," Halpin said. "The people have been using it as a convenience store. There's a lot that's left to be desired."

The 40,733-square-foot Kings Contrivance store, built in 1987 as a Valu Food store, is showing signs of wear. Residents complain of broken refrigerated cases and poor lighting. It is cramped and outdated compared with modern-size stores at 55,000 square feet.

A recent trip to the store revealed a leak from a fountain soda dispenser that spread water across the deli counter. Large pieces of cardboard were spread in front of the counter to capture the moisture and prevent customers from slipping. A clerk said the machine had been leaking for a week.

Those problems have been pushing some shoppers away, said Anne Dodd, the village manager.

Village board members "are just looking for one of the larger grocery stores like the other village centers have that meets a full range of service the residents need," Dodd said. "You can go not too far away and find everything you want in a nice, bright, clean atmosphere. This store does not provide everything you want in a nice, clean atmosphere."

Muckle said Safeway remodeled the store when the company took over the lease in December 1999, but the repair work was done quickly and some major store equipment, such as refrigerated cases, was not replaced.

He said the store's manager was aware of the problems and that they would be fixed.

Details of an expansion plan were not available, and county planning and zoning officials say the company has not applied for permits.

Halpin said village board members approached Safeway this year to ask about expanding the store, and they found that the company was considering it.

He said Safeway officials told board members that if it could demonstrate that people would shop there, the company would consider expanding. More than 200 people have called the village office voicing their support, Halpin said.

But gauging community support may be less important than simply keeping up with the competition. The next closest grocery store, a Giant Food in Owen Brown Village Center, is in the middle of an expansion. The Giant in River Hill Village Center, also nearby, is new, and boasts a coffee bar among other amenities.

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