By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.
and DAVID SKOLNICK
The first three Bottom Dollar grocery stores in the state have settled into Youngstown with long lines, an expectation that they will spur other retail businesses to come to the city, and virtually no criminal problems.
The three stores located on Glenwood Avenue, Midlothian Boulevard and Mahoning Avenue opened their doors last week to throngs of prospective shoppers.
A check of the stores throughout this week shows the lines have died down a little, but the aisles are still packed with shoppers.
“We’ve had real strong traffic,” said Craig McCartney, store manager at the Midlothian Boulevard location. “The weekend snow cut some of our traffic down a little.”
City officials are optimistic the Bottom Dollar stores will attract other retail businesses to the areas where the three supermarkets opened.
“It’s going to be important for the development of the Midlothian Boulevard corridor,” said Councilman John R. Swierz, D-7th, of the store on that street and in his ward. “It’s going to be an asset to the neighborhood.”
Councilman Paul Drennen, D-5th, who has the Glenwood Avenue store in his ward, said Bottom Dollar “will help spur development in that area. You’ll see other stores pop up nearby. It will also help clean up the Glenwood area. Hopefully, businesses that have caused problems, like the corner stores, will go away.”
The Mahoning Avenue store in the Mahoning Plaza should “help stores there and will help bring more stores to that area,” said Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th, whose ward includes that location. “The substantial amount of investment made by Bottom Dollar shows we have a viable economic location.”
Over the years, full-service grocery stores have closed in the city, causing concerns for residents who have to travel to other parts of Youngstown or to the suburbs to shop, said Mayor Charles Sammarone.
“This is something people have been waiting for years to have — full-service grocery stores with meats and produce,” he said. “We need to make sure we support them. They’re providing a needed service.”
The company is looking to open other stores in the city, including one possibly on the East Side, Sammarone said.
A check of Youngstown police records also shows that there doesn’t seem to be very many troublemakers or criminals inside the stores.
There have been calls to police at the three stores but no calls for anything deemed major.
The Mahoning Avenue location has had only two calls to Youngstown police in the week since the store opened Feb. 9. Those calls were both for minor traffic accidents in the parking lot of the store. There were no injuries in either of those accidents.
The Glenwood location has had several calls for service to police, but most of those calls were when the alarm system was accidentally activated. Police have issued a trespass warning to one man who created a disturbance on the property last Friday.
The Midlothian location has had only one call for service to police for what could be seen as the most serious criminal activity at the stores thus far. A 26-year-old Struthers woman told police her purse was stolen while shopping.
The woman said she was shopping in the store just before 1 p.m. Monday carrying a “long and wide messenger-style purse,” which contained her $1,300 tax refund. The woman said she last remembers seeing the purse when she placed it on the counter to pay for her purchases.
The woman told police she believes she put the purse back in her shopping cart and left the store but realized it was missing when she reached her car and began to unload the cart. She is not sure if the purse was left on the counter or stolen out of the cart.
McCartney said there have been no in-store problems. He said the supermarket often has a loss-protection officer in store, but not at all times.
“We’re real happy with the neighborhood that we’re in,” he said.
McCartney said the traffic, which on Thursday had picked back up, can be attributed to the meat and fresh-produce sections.
Many pockets of Youngstown previously had gone without a full-service chain grocer and therefore had to travel longer distances than most if they wanted meats and produce.
Contributor: Karl Henkel, staff writer.