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Hill to have say on Save-A-Lot

By Ron DaParma
Wednesday, April 9, 2008 

A community meeting Saturday could be a “make or break” moment for the effort to bring a Save-A-Lot grocery store to the Hill District.The 10:30 a.m. session at the New Light Temple Baptist Church on Centre Avenue could help determine if supporters of the plan can sway opponents, said Howard Slaughter, CEO of Landmarks Community Capital Corp. 

“We will see if the community is really interested in having Save-A-Lot come to the Hill District,” said Slaughter, who is helping to organize the meeting.

Landmarks Community Capital is a nonprofit corporation formed last year by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation to spark community revitalization.

The main sponsor is Councilwoman Tonya Payne, whose district includes the Hill District.

For years, there has been widespread support for a Hill District supermarket. Some residents, however, say they’d prefer a “full-service” store, larger and with a greater selection of products, than those generally operated by St. Louis-based Save-A-Lot.

They’ve asked about such features as an in-store bakery or pharmacy, for example.

“You have to start somewhere,” said Payne, who believes the grocery store could be a catalyst for other retailers to come into the neighborhood.

“I think we are on the verge of something good. We have somebody in Save-A-Lot that is willing to take the first plunge, and it could create opportunity for further development,” she said.

Still, she and others will leave it up to the community to decide, Payne said.

Before the meeting, an 8:30 a.m. bus tour will take residents who have signed up in advance to get a firsthand look at Save-A-Lot’s store in Wilkinsburg. That store is one of five the chain operates in the Pittsburgh area, among 1,600 stores nationwide.

At the meeting, Mark Goodman, chief operating officer of Save-A-Lot, and other speakers will address concerns of residents. Others include people from communities that have a Save-A-Lot store, including Chris Jenkins, executive director of the Black Vietnam Veterans in Wilkinsburg.

“Save-A-Lot remains very interested in locating in the Hill District, but they certainly believe community support is imperative,” Slaughter said.

Payne intends to pass out a survey for residents to state their opinions and make suggestions for Save-A-Lot to consider in its planning.

“It will be what the community wants, but based on the conversations that have taken place over the last several years, the community wants nothing less than a full-service supermarket,” said George Moses, a member of the Hill District Consensus Group.

Moses said Save-A-Lot’s discount pricing is not enough to offset his concerns about its product selection and no-frills approach to service, including having customers bag their own groceries.

Instead, he’d like to see public officials press full-service grocers such as Giant Eagle or Shop ‘n Save to consider a Hill District store.

Giant Eagle believes its stores in nearby neighborhoods such as the North Side, South Side and Shadyside already serve Hill District customers, said Dick Roberts, a spokesman.


Ron DaParma can be reached or 412-320-7907.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633