A new grocery store in Wichita. Is it ‘stupid and crazy’?

The former Dillons grocery store at Harry and Broadway will become a Save-A-Lot on Jan. 4.
The former Dillons grocery store at Harry and Broadway will become a Save-A-Lot on Jan. 4. File photo

A new Save-A-Lot grocery store is set to open in the former Dillons store at 1640 S. Broadway on Jan. 4.

Store owner Honor Capital is in the midst of setting up the counters and shelves. The store will be open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.

Honor Capital, a veteran-led, for-profit company based in Tulsa, aims to build and operate small grocery stores in “food deserts,” areas without a local grocery store within a few miles.

This is its fourth store, with three more coming soon. It already has a Save-A-Lot store in Winfield.

Save-A-Lot is a brand owned by giant food wholesaler Supervalu, which licenses its name and operating program to independently-owned stores.

Honor Capital is spending $1.35 million to renovate and stock the store, said Marcus Scarborough, the company’s vice president of community engagement. It will have about 25 employees.

The store will have freshly cut meat and fresh produce, along with packaged foods.

“What we like to say is, ‘Fresh, full and friendly,’ ” Scarborough said.

Much of the money to open the store comes from government loans — the federal Community Development Financial Institutions Fund and the Healthy Foods Financing Initiative – as well as the city of Wichita, although Honor Capital also has some equity in the business.

The city extended a $400,000 loan from its federal Community Development Block Grant funds.

The store, opened in 1953, was one of Dillons’ oldest. It closed in 2014 as part of a larger move by Dillons to trim smaller, less profitable stores in older neighborhoods. The grocery selling business traditionally has very low margins.

Combining for-profit methods with public funds to open a grocery store in a lower-income neighborhood may be a tricky task, he conceded.

“We’ve been called stupid and crazy for doing what we’re trying to do,” Scarborough said. “Nobody else wants to do this, nobody else cares, not Dillons, not Wal-Mart, not Whole Foods, not Aldi, or any of the big names.”

The Save-A-Lot model has been used in other Wichita locations: at 13th and Grove, and at Pawnee and George Washington Boulevard. The stores are smaller than typical grocery stores, with lower labor and utility costs.

Scarborough said Honor Capital has talked about other locations in Wichita. A number of closed Dillons and Wal-Mart stores remain.

“Once we get our foot planted, we’ll start to evaluate the next store,” he said.

Dan Voorhis: 316-268-6577, @danvoorhis

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