ATLANTIC CITY — Save-A-Lot supermarket will open at 8 a.m. Thursday, filling a void that left the community without a major grocer for more than six years.
Employees have been preparing for the grand opening for at least a week, including staffing a closed tour Wednesday night that drew about three dozen public officials and executives for the grocery chain to the site inside Renaissance Plaza at Atlantic and Kentucky avenues.
“You guys have no idea how much this means to this community. I daresay there is nothing more important than this (that’s happened this year or last year),” Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford said.
Save-A-Lot started talking to officials about opening a store in the resort two years ago, Regional Vice President Bob Sheehy said.
“We’re really looking forward to serving the community. We’ve opened stores in ... every major city on the East Coast, Cleveland, Chicago,” Sheehy said. “Every community has looked forward to us opening, and this one’s been no different. The ... excitement surrounding this opening has been incredible.”
Save-A-Lot’s more than 1,400 stores nationwide serve an estimated 4 million customers each week. They carry fewer lines of national brands supplemented by products with brands they’ve developed specifically for their own shelves — all at prices discounted from what one might expect at other major grocery chains. The company also tries to make as many hires as possible from the communities hosting its stores; in this case, 24 of 27 workers live in Atlantic City, spokeswoman Chon Tomlin said.
When Renaissance Plaza opened in 1996, the 40,000-square-foot Thriftway there was the first resort supermarket in nearly two decades. Financial problems forced Thriftway to close in 2004, but it was replaced by an IGA within a couple of months. IGA shut its doors in 2006 due to a combination of factors, including shoplifting, high rent and the store owner’s death. Acme flirted with the idea of opening a Food Basics there, but difficulties within its parent company prompted the chain to back out despite a $400,000 subsidy for renovations offered by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.
Save-A-Lot is not getting grants of any kind, said representatives for the CRDA, which provided half the $14 million needed to build Renaissance Plaza.
But they, the leaseholder and Save-A-Lot agreed to increase security with cameras and sufficient lighting inside and outside the store. They hope those measures will help prevent conditions that contributed to past closings there, CRDA Director John Palmieri said.
“This isn’t the first time we’ve come in behind grocers who’ve failed. And there have been a whole lot of people who have told us all the reasons we’re going to fail. And I can assure you it’s not going to happen here,” Sheehy said. “We’re not a company that fails.”
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