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Save A Lot in Boardman reopens after May flood

Had about $700,000 in renovations

BOARDMAN — A well-known, family-owned grocery store has reopened with a $700,000 makeover after a disastrous spring flood.

Save A Lot at Boardman Plaza suffered several inches of water and sewer backup May 28 during a heavy rain that flooded the plaza’s parking lot and caused the store to close, but it also caused its owners to reinvest in the space.

“So we’re hoping the flood was a blessing in disguise,” said co-owner Henry Nemenz Jr. “It forced us to renovate and gave us this great new look and got us a lot of attention. The renovations we did here are high efficiency — all LED lighting and our freezer cases are now even green rated.”

Nemenz, his sister, Elaine Kawecki, and her husband, John, had planned to renovate the store, but hadn’t planned to do it now. The flood hastened that decision.

“It was a thought and after we took the store over we started seeing an increase in sales and the store was progressively getting better and stronger, and we have a lot of potential in this location to grow … so we thought at some point we want to renovate,” Nemenz said.

Save A Lot, with which the family has a license agreement, had a new decor package the partners had already unrolled at their store on South Avenue in Youngstown, but improving the Boardman Poland Road store with the new look “was nowhere going to be near now,” Nemenz said.

That is until upward of 5 inches of water and sewer flooded the 15,000-square-foot store.

The interior renovation was comprised of ripping out about four feet of drywall and replacing it with water and mold-resistant green board and cement board, plus new overhead lighting, new vertical and ground reach-in freezers and new checkout system with an additional checkout lane.

“So once we pulled that (the drywall) away, it was just a matter of do we put old equipment back in place or do we take the next step: replace it, renovate it and go with the look — and that’s what we did,” Nemenz said.

In addition, the plaza’s owner replaced the sidewalk leading into the store. It now slopes away toward the parking lot; before it sloped back to the store and had curbs. Another exterior improvement was new paint and a new Save A Lot brand overhead sign.

The store was emptied, dried, cleaned and sanitized. All of the perishable food was lost as was anything touched by water. As much as they could, nonperishable items were sent to other grocery stores owned by the three to be sold.

Save A Lot reopened Sept. 3.

So what’s been done to prevent a similar flood from happening again?

“That’s the big question,” Nemenz said. “We had some flooding in the plaza a couple of years ago, but the water level didn’t reach our store … this time it got to us.”

The flood was the first experienced at the store since it opened 12 years ago.

Some of the discussion with township officials has been about cleaning the storm sewer of debris and possibly replacing it with larger pipe. Also, there’s been talk of building a retention pond behind the plaza to collect water.

Jason Loree, Boardman Township administrator, said the plaza — many years before Boardman Poland Road was developed — was a pond for a farmer’s field. The plaza was built in the early 1950s, when no storm water rules were in place.

“A lot of the community, if it were built to today’s standards, wouldn’t be built in floodplains and you would have a lot more storm water retention because it wasn’t required until the late ’80s, 1990s,” Loree said. Also, the area is all pavement and concrete, including the five-lane Route 224, that don’t absorb water.

He said some sort of retention plan needs to be in place for the plaza, but the plaza owner would be responsible for the upgrades.

The response has been positive since the store reopened.

“A lot of thank yous, a lot of ‘Boy, we missed you,’ ‘Glad you’re back,’ ‘Didn’t realize how much we missed this store,'” Nemenz said.

In the meantime though, shoppers stayed loyal and went to Save A Lot stores in Austintown, Struthers and Youngstown.

“We saw quite a few customers from here when we were closed were going to South Avenue. They would comment to our other employees, ‘When are they going to open in Boardman? We’re coming here because we can’t go to Boardman,'” she said.

rselak@tribtoday.com