By HOLLY SCHOENSTEIN
About 200 folks had signed a petition asking Giant Eagle to change its mind.
YOUNGSTOWN — They’re not happy, and they’re letting Giant Eagle know.
The Cornersburg community’s latest effort to express its displeasure about the closing of the Canfield Road store, which has been scheduled for end of the business day Saturday, has been circulating around the Internet in the form of a petition.
Councilman Paul Drennen, D-5th, posted the petition on his blog, www.councilmanpauldrennen.blogspot.com, Monday evening.
As of Thursday afternoon, about 200 residents, business owners and patrons had signed the petition. The signatures have more than doubled since Wednesday morning.
Some petitioners have written comments about what the store’s closing means to them and to the community. The comments range from sweet begs, such as Dorothy Donald’s “Please don’t close,” while others are more forceful, such as “If this store closes, I will not ever shop at another Giant Eagle!!” written by a “Mary.”
Among the most frequent comments on the petition are concern for the store’s patrons, who are elderly or who walk to the store, and the inconvenience the closing will be on customers who are forced to find other area Giant Eagles or other grocery stores.
The grocery store giant is aware of the petition and is monitoring it, said Howard Landau, spokesman for Giant Eagle and owner of Landau Public Relations in Cleveland.
Landau declined to comment about whether the petition would change the company’s decision to vacate the space.
The Cornersburg store is one of only two Giant Eagles that remain in the city. Sixty-five employees work there.
“We’re working to transition these employees to other positions within the company,” Landau said.
Mayor Jay Williams said the idea to create the petition came from conversations with store patrons who had expressed “a great deal of displeasure and dissatisfaction with Giant Eagle’s decision to close the store.”
But those without Internet access or who have not signed the online petition have not been barred from sharing their opinions about the closing.
“We’re going to miss you here,” Youngstown resident Micki Lewis told a male Giant Eagle employee Thursday as he corralled carts in the parking lot.
“It’s sad,” Lewis said. “This one’s so much closer; it saves gas, and they have Fuel Perks, too.”
She will shop at other area Giant Eagles to get discounts on gas and to buy the brand-name products other stores don’t carry.
Boardman residents Sue and Ray Thomas have walked to Giant Eagle almost every night to buy a certain brand of milk, which is the only kind Ray prefers to drink.
“We’re sick over them closing,” said Sue, 57. “I like going because you know where everything is, and you can get in and out. We’re used to it.”
Now that the store is scheduled to close, Sue said she will shop at a Sparkle Market because it is closer than other stores. If another grocer moves into the space, she’ll check it out.
A vacated building in the heart of a busy commercial area may affect surrounding businesses, some business owners have said.
“Empty stores never create business,” said Ed Byrdy, whose wife, Dee, owns the consignment store Kids Act II at 33751‚Ñ2 Canfield Road in Youngstown. “If a store stays empty for any amount of time, people stop coming to the area to shop.”
Byrdy doesn’t believe the consignment store’s business will be affected by the closing of Giant Eagle, however.
Williams and Drennen have assured residents and business owners that they will find another grocer or store to occupy the space.
Among the grocers they have been in contact with are Henry Nemenz, owner of several IGA and Save-a-Lot stores in the Youngstown area, Trader Joe’s, Aldi and Wal-Mart.
No grocers have formally committed to occupying the space should Giant Eagle decide to vacate, they said.
“The preference would be to have Giant Eagle there, or we’ll look for a company that truly wants to be involved in the community,” Williams said.
Giant Eagle’s announcement about leaving the area hasn’t been bad news for everyone, though.
Sparkle Market, 3623 S. Meridian Road, already has experienced an increase in business, said assistant store manager John Allen.
“We’re expecting to see a surge of at least another 5 to 15 percent, in addition to what we’ve already seen,” Allen said.
Sparkle Market co-owner Vince Furrie said the store has seen an increase of about 500 customers, which he equated has brought in about $2,000 in sales.