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Save-a-Lot may put a food store in the Hill District

By Jeremy Boren
Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A St. Louis-based grocery store chain that specializes in serving inner-city neighborhoods could set up shop in the Hill District, according to the Landmarks Community Capital Corp.

“This is a grocer who has a great connection to this market, is interested in developing in urban markets and is open to minority ownership,” said Howard B. Slaughter Jr., CEO of Landmarks Capital, part of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

Slaughter declined to identify the company, but he would not deny speculation that it is discount grocer Save-a-Lot, which is based in St. Louis and has five stores in the Pittsburgh area, including Duquesne, Wilkinsburg and Lawrenceville.

“It has to be Save-a-Lot. It matches up in terms of the number of stores, and it likes those demographics,” said industry consultant Burt Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resource Group in New York.

Slaughter said in a news release that the grocer has 1,200 stores in 39 states and is the nation’s fifth-largest chain. Those figures mirror statistics about Save-a-Lot on the company’s Web site. A spokesperson did not return a call seeking comment.

Slaughter said he and the grocer will discuss a market analysis and site inspection of a possible Centre Avenue location for the store at an 8:30 a.m. news conference today at Station Square.

The grocery store operator could be eligible for up to $2 million in loans from The Reinvestment Fund of Philadelphia to cover start-up costs such as buying land and recruiting employees, Slaughter said.

Separately, the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Pittsburgh Penguins have offered up to $2 million in start-up financing to a company willing to open what would become the Hill District’s lone grocery store.

The commitment is in response to neighbors who are demanding an agreement that includes provisions for a grocery store from the city, Penguins and Allegheny County before the $290 million Uptown arena is built for the Penguins.

“It’s always positive to have operators that are interested,” said Carl Redwood Jr., chairman of the One Hill Coalition, a group seeking a community benefits agreement. “We just need to make sure that the community needs are met. There are some people in the community that wouldn’t call this their ideal store.”

Redwood said some members of One Hill might not like a discount chain that lacks the amenities of some supermarket chains such as a pharmacy.

In 2006, some Hill District residents rejected efforts by Aldi, a German-owned discount chain, to open a store on Centre Avenue because they believed it would ruin chances to attract a full-service grocery store.

The neighborhood hasn’t had a full-service store since Shop ‘n Save closed its AUBA Plaza store on Centre Avenue in the early 1980s.

Jeremy Boren can be reached at or 412-765-2312.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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