GROCERY STORES Sparkle group adds new stores

Growth of the local Sparkle association increases its buying power.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Sparkle Market owners compete aggressively with Giant Eagle in this area but are welcoming it as a partner in areas west of Cleveland.
Four stores in Cuyahoga and Lorain counties have joined the Regional Sparkle Market Association, which is based in Youngstown.
The stores are now known as Rini-Rego Sparkle Markets and are owned by Giant Eagle; the Pittsburgh-based grocery chain acquired the Rini-Rego chain in the Cleveland area several years ago. The new Sparkle stores are in North Olmsted, Sheffield Lake, Vermilion and Lorain.
Sandy Zander, president of the Sparkle association, said these four stores haven't been performing as well as other Giant Eagle-owned stores, so the corporation thought they may do better under the Sparkle banner. Giant Eagle officials could not be reached for comment.
Zander stressed that the local Sparkle owners remain in control of the association. Giant Eagle will not have a seat on the association's board of directors.
"We are not going with them. They are coming to us," said Zander, who also owns the Union Square Sparkle on Gypsy Lane.
Independence is key to the success of the Sparkle concept, he said.
"Nobody can tell us what to do or where to buy our groceries," he said.
Diverse products: Giant Eagle thinks some local variety may help these four stores, he said. With a large corporation, stores have to be run a certain way and carry a certain mix of products, he said.
With Sparkle, products vary with each store. A store in Youngstown, for example, will carry items different from a store in Boardman or Girard, he said.
The Sparkle association benefits by adding the Rini-Rego stores because it becomes larger and can therefore buy products at better prices, he said.
Not only is the association growing from 21 stores to 25 stores, it also is adding large stores. Only four of the current Sparkles are as large as the 50,000-square-foot stores being added.
The association will continue to look for more expansion, Zander said.
Closings: Although the association is adding four members, it recently lost two. Sparkles on Youngstown's South Side and in Lawrence Village, Pa., have closed within the last nine months.
Most Sparkles are in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, but there also are stores in Mercer, Ashtabula, Geauga and Portage counties.
The Sparkle association was formed in 1955. The six-member board of directors governs some business decisions and stores are required to stock some advertised items, but most of the store operating decisions are handled by each owner.

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