February 1, 2012

Grocery store coming to downtown Waterville

Save-A-Lot to open on The Concourse

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE -- A grocery store is scheduled to open April 1 in the former Ames department store on The Concourse downtown.

The Save-A-Lot store will occupy a 15,400-square-foot space between Family Dollar and Inland Family Care.

Zak Sclar, the store's majority owner, said he expects to employ about 25 full and part-time workers and construction work is under way to prepare for the opening. Sclar also is an owner of a Save-A-Lot in Lewiston.

"It's a limited assortment grocery store," Sclar said Tuesday. "It's designed so you can go in and get everything you need and not see 50 different types of ketchup, for instance. There will be one or two different types of very high quality product."

He said his store's focus is saving customers up to 40 percent on groceries.

Kevin Joseph, who owns Joseph's Market, the only other grocery store downtown, said he is not concerned about Save-A-Lot having an impact on his Front Street business.

"The more people we can get downtown, the better it is for everybody," Joseph said.

He said that when other grocery stores were downtown, Joseph's survived and he fully expects it will continue.

"We have a loyal following. We have a lot of people that have been with us for a number of years because of the quality of meat that we carry. I don't expect to lose any of those people," he said.

Waterville Main Street's executive director, Shannon Haines, said Tuesday that her office worked with Sclar to bring Save-A-Lot here and they were thrilled to have a grocery store downtown again.

It will be the first time a grocery store has been downtown since Hannaford moved its store in the mid-1990s to JFK Plaza off Kennedy Memorial Drive.

A survey taken by Waterville business people and others identified a new grocery store as a top priority for the downtown, according to Haines. Clothing stores, a bookstore for adults and a combined bakery and deli also are on that list. A kitchen and home wares store was taken off the list because the Paragon Shop and Adams & Worth adapted their inventory to include those items, according to Haines.

She said finding tenants is a challenge for some vacant downtown spaces because they either are not in good enough condition to rent or property owners are not trying to find tenants.

Sclar said he chose Waterville because it seemed to be a good fit.

"I just sensed that it would be a good location and I see a lot of walking traffic and hopefully, my instincts are right."

He said that in talking with people in town, he also learned that residents who live in or near downtown and who walked to the former Hannaford store on The Concourse to shop miss having a grocery store there.

Kimberly Lindlof, president and chief executive officer of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, is happy about store's location.

"It's wonderful to finally see it come to fruition," she said. "Having a grocery store downtown has been on a lot of people's wish list for many years."

Save-A-Lot will lease the space in the building from HK-Maine Properties LLC, which is based in Connecticut. A 10,000-square-foot space in the building between the future Save-A-Lot and Inland has not yet been leased.

Sclar said jobs that will be available in the store include clerks, stocking positions and a meat manager. After construction is complete and the space is turned over to store officials around March 1, representatives will be on site to take job applications. He said officials probably will put up a banner announcing that applications are available.

The store is scheduled to be open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week, but may close earlier on Sundays, he said.

The individually owned Save-A-Lot stores are franchised by the publicly traded company Super Value.

Other Save-A-Lot stores in Maine are in Brewer, Caribou, Dover, Farmington, Portland, Sanford and South Paris, according to Sclar.

The Save-A-Lot will join other grocery stores in the city including Shaw's Supermarket on Kennedy Memorial Drive, Hannaford stores at Elm Plaza and JFK Plaza, and Caswell's Liquidation Center, a discount store on Armory Road.

Amy Calder -- 861-9247

acalder@centralmaine.com

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