ALLIANCE — Sander’s Market, the grocery store that took over the former Thorne’s location in April, will close its doors by the end of the year.
Co-owner Mark Sander cited the high cost of operations as a reason the South Union Avenue grocery store will be shuttered.
It has been a rough eight months for Sander’s.
Sander said the store has had windows replaced twice after vandals fired pellets at them. He also cited numerous shoplifting incidents.
Sander said the store has performed marginally at best.
Sander and his brother Jake purchased the store as part of bankruptcy package in December 2017, and opened the full-service grocery store on April 19.
The store brought high hopes that a food desert on the north side of town had been eliminated. Initial response to the store, which included fresh-cut meats, prepared foods and fresh, scratch-baked goods, was favorable.
However, early on, Sander said company officials knew the challenge would be difficult due to the 50,000-square-foot structure. It’s much larger than the usual 25,000-square-foot stores the brothers were used to. The Alliance location was the brothers’ seventh grocery store.
Over the past few months, plans to make part of the space available to commercial tenants were unsuccessful, and the store continued to be a drain on the chain’s finances.
“The first day was good, but the store is way too large. We are not getting the numbers to justify it,” Sander said.
Over the past seven months, Sander’s gained notoriety for its baked goods, especially its doughnuts.
Area residents expressed their disappointment in Sander’s decision on Facebook. Some accused store officials of making empty promises and prematurely bailing before the store had a chance to gain its footing.
Sander responded to the comments on Facebook. “We appreciate all the customers that came back and shopped with us after reopening,” he wrote. “The issue is that we were doing a lot less business then Thornes was. When a store closes for a long period of time, it’s hard getting the customers back. If the community decides that they wanted to support this store, we would keep open. but as of now we will be closing by the end of the year.”
He reiterated those feelings over the phone Thursday afternoon.
“We have made no determination for the building,” he said. “We have been seeking a renter for it, but we aren’t getting a lot of response. We are seeking someone. In addition to hardware and home good stores, we have reached out to a few grocery chains.
Sander said Alliance isn’t the right market for a grocery store to add a gasoline station. “Alliance is a tight market on fuel, and there are thousands of dollars in updates needing done,” he said.
Sander’s had success in some areas.
“Our bakery and deli did well, but we aren’t going to be Aldi’s and Save-A-Lot,” Sander said. “It is hard to bring people down to this side of town. We have done very little with the Purple Raider Plus card, even though we participate in that.”
Sander said store officials tried several things to make the store work better. Inventory was shuffled around in an attempt to improve the footprint, but it didn’t help.
“We are closing, because the store is unprofitable. We made the decision last Friday,” Sander said.
Mark Locke, president of the Alliance Area Chamber of Commerce, expressed sorrow over the loss of the business.
“They have to be able to make money. This is not a hobby,” Locke said. “They had been looking at ways to downsize, because they have said from the start that the building is too big.”
When Mayor Alan Andreani learned of Sander’s decision, he expressed regret. “We know the business for grocery stores is very competitive,” Andreani said.
City Planning and Development Director Joe Mazzola said the grocery business is challenging, especially when examining the power needs.
“I imagine (the Sanders) are thinking about all their options,” Mazzola said. “The grocery store business is very competitive here in Alliance. We have six stores with a variety of price points. People have options.”
The store will be offering selldown prices through its closing. Everything but tobacco, milk and alcohol will be 10 percent off during the week of Dec. 11, and then progressively changed as inventory is liquidated.