GREEN: A food fight is on.
On Wednesday, the same day that Acme Fresh Market officials broke ground for the company’s first new store location in 20 years, Giant Eagle officials confirmed that it is upgrading its nearby store into a gourmet emporium.
The Giant Eagle store on Corporate Woods Parkway off Massillon Road was already in the midst of a major renovation, but later this year it will become what the Pittsburgh-based company calls a Market District, an official said.
Akron-based Acme said it will build a $10 million, 75,500-square-foot store in the Heritage Crossings of Green development at Massillon and Graybill roads.
Acme Executive Vice President Jim Trout declined to comment specifically about competition, but acknowledged that Green had been a geographic void for Acme.
“We see Green as a segment of our core market that we weren’t serving,” Trout said.
“We’re going to show the community of Green what we feel they’re looking for in an Acme Fresh Market. We know the competition is fierce and there’s a lot of them out there, but we also have to forge ahead in providing the consumer a choice of an Acme Fresh Market,” Trout said. “It’s going to be a different experience from other competitors.”
The new store is slated to open in 10 months and will employ 215, many of whom will be new hires, he said.
Giant Eagle’s announcement about a Market District coming to Green comes nearly one week after it said the upscale concept will be part of a new store constructed in Cuyahoga Falls in the Portage Crossing Development along State Road. Similar to Green, that new Market District will be down the street from a newly built Acme.
The 94,000-square-foot-store Cuyahoga Falls Market District will be built by next year. Market District is Giant Eagle’s format designed for “food lovers” combined with a traditional grocery store.
Giant Eagle two weeks ago opened its first Market District in Northeast Ohio in Solon. Another is planned for Strongsville by next year. Market District stores can include chefs with daily demonstrations, a gelato stand, a wine bar and restaurant-quality seating with made-to-order food. Some Market District stores have a charcuterie station of imported meats and cheeses and a sweet shop of nostalgic candies.
The Green Giant Eagle, going through a renovation, already has some features of a Market District. That includes a wine and cheese station and a made-to-order sushi and stir-fry area with chefs. No additional details were available on what other changes would be added in Green.
Giant Eagle spokesman Dan Donovan said the new Green Market District will be “inspired by the open air markets of Europe and a true passion for food.” He added the approximately 85,000-square-foot store “will deliver an array of delicious prepared foods, unique foods from around the world, as well as the best in everyday grocery offerings.”
Donovan said each Market District store is “uniquely tailored to best meet the supermarket needs of the local community within the space available.” The store will employ about 300, he said. It is unknown how many employees currently work at the store.
At Acme, Trout said Green shoppers will have a “power alley” concept visible as shoppers walk in, including perishables, meat, deli and produce as well as bakery and floral. The company will also include some merchandise for parties, such as balloons and supplies, from its RSVP Food and Party Outlet stores in Akron and Stow, Trout said.
The store will also have an expanded natural foods and organic food department and bulk foods area.
“This is our first real opportunity to design a store from the ground up,” Trout said. In Cuyahoga Falls, Acme’s store on State Road was reconstructed around an existing store in a land-locked area.
There will also be a separate entrance for customers to get prepared foods quickly and leave, Trout said. The Green Giant Eagle has a similar separate door.
Mayor welcomes stores
Green Mayor Dick Norton said the number of options for residents to find groceries, including the recent purchase of the Portage Lakes IGA in Green by Buehler’s Fresh Foods, plus groceries available in big-box retail stores, is good.
“This is good, old American competition,” Norton said. “They’re going to compete on certainly price, location, customer service and food presentation and those are all things that the market wants.”
Green is a growing community with more open land for further development, Norton said. The grocers have researched the market and know this is where they want to be, he said.
“We are clearly growing at a pretty good clip. The market can clearly support it. Moreover, for the future market, they’ll be there when they want to be and they’ll have the foothold they want,” Norton said.
Bob Buehler, vice president of marketing for Buehler’s, said, “We welcome the competition.
“We’re fortunate that we’ve been growing. We have been working on our pricing and our customers are telling us that they really like what we’re doing,” said Buehler of the family-owned chain.
The former IGA store is the Wooster-based company’s first foray into Summit County and the company’s nearby store in Jackson Township is one of the fastest-growing stores, he said.
The former IGA store on South Main Street in Green will be changed to a smaller-format Buehler’s this fall, he said.
Officials from Fishers Foods, which has a store in nearby North Canton and operates in the Canton area, were not available for comment.
At the Acme ground-breaking ceremony Wednesday, Acme President Steve Albrecht said a banner with the slogan “A Proud Heritage, a Bright Future” was accurate. “One, Acme certainly has a lot of heritage and our store is going to reflect that heritage and it is going to reflect and incorporate the Green heritage as we get our store underway.”
Heritage Crossing will also have three other retail buildings with 30,000 square feet of space, said Joe Albrecht, vice president of retail properties for Albrecht Inc., the developer. Albrecht said he could not disclose any other tenants, but they will include restaurants, retailers and service providers.
The Akron region is fortunate to have grocers renovating and building new stores, said one industry analyst. A trend for grocers nationwide has become holding off until faced with a competitive situation, said Jim Hertel, managing partner of Willard Bishop, a food retail consulting firm in Barrington, Ill.
“In some ways, you guys are fortunate in that they are pretty proactive or active in terms of store remodeling. That’s not usual in the current economy,” he said.
Staff writer Kathy Antoniotti contributed to this report. Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blinfisher and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty