A new Save-A-Lot store opened Wednesday morning at George Washington and Pawnee with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Its first shoppers were admitted immediately after the ceremony and were pleased to have a discount grocery store in the neighborhood, one of the poorest and least served in Wichita.
“I pass by here every day when I get off work,” said Jennifer Roberts, who works for House of Hope and lives in Oaklawn. “I kept waiting and waiting for it to open up.” The store will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.
Save-A-Lot operates nearly 1,200 stores nationwide. Store manager James Schwarz, who has worked for the company for nine years and managed the Save-a-Lot store at 13th and Grove since its opening in July 2006, said the new store created 30 full- and part-time jobs. Twenty-five employees have been hired, and openings still exist for stockers and produce help, Schwarz said.
The Planeview project originally was proposed last August by developer and landlord Rob Snyder. Snyder said he needed a tax subsidy to make the project affordable. He sought permission from Wichita City Council and the Sedgwick County Commission to keep nearly $900,000 of sales tax and property tax generated over two decades by the store. The boards ultimately rejected the financing, and Snyder declared the project dead.
The new owners — Ron and Barbara Rhodes, Tim and Samantha Rhodes, Drew and Joanna Rhodes, and Schwarz — bought the land from Snyder at a reduced rate and committed to a store that is 25 percent larger than the original proposal. The store cost $2.8 million for the land and building.
“He had the land and in his heart knew a grocery store needed to be here, so he got the land to us any way he could,” said Tim Rhodes, the store’s general manager. “Doing that has allowed us to free up some capital to get the building up and going.”
Before cutting the ribbon, which was stretched between two fully loaded shopping carts inside the store’s entrance, Tim Rhodes thanked the community for its support and for telling the owners of the need for the store.
Ron and Barbara Rhodes started in the grocery business in 1976 in Pittsburg. They own two non-discount stores in Pittsburg and Branson, Mo., as well as the Sav-A-Lot at 13th and Grove.
Ground was broken on the Planeview project five months ago. The store, built by Crossland Construction Co., is 16,500 square feet with an additional 4,000 square feet of available leasing space.
“I’m wanting to come back,” Roberts said. “I’ll have to wait till I get my paycheck. There’s really not much over here to shop at.”
Roberts was the first customer to reach the checkout line. She said she spent $30 for a basket of groceries that she estimates would have cost $45 to $50 elsewhere.
Robert Sanders, a self-employed father of two children, said he, too, had been watching and waiting for the store to open.
“A lot of the prices are really good. I knew they had a store on 13th Street. I’d been by there a few times but just never made it in to shop,” he said.
“I think it should do really good down here.”