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Plans are on track for Schnuck Markets Inc.’s new urban prototype unit in downtown St. Louis to open in the spring of 2009, the chain said. About a third the size of the typical Schnucks unit, the new 21,000-square-foot market represents a dramatic departure for the regional grocer.
With inside framing complete, the second phase of construction will begin shortly, company officials said.
The chain has chosen Tom Collora, former store manager for Schnucks’ Arsenal store and a chain veteran, to oversee the project.
“In the 39 years he has worked for Schnucks, Tom has always been a trail blazer,” said chairman and c.e.o. Scott Schnuck. “We can count on Tom for creative ideas and innovative approaches to serving customers, and that’s just exactly what we will need downtown.”
Schnuck added that given the substantial investment his family-owned company has made in the project, “there is more of an element of risk involved in this store, so it was important to find the right person to manage it.”
Collora opened the chain’s Arsenal store in 1985, and developed partnerships with specialty grocery suppliers that helped to continually adjust the mix of products and services to fit the needs of the customer base. “That’s the kind of ingenuity we want to see at work in this newest location,” said Schnuck.
The downtown store will offer an expanded selection of prepared foods, and will also have the only in-store pharmacy in that part of the city.
The customer base is dense and growing, the chain said, with about 100,000 commuters, tourists, and residents within a two- to three-mile radius of the store on any given weekday. But the ebb and flow of traffic is such that a conventional store would be overkill. “Only about 10 percent of that group is downtown over the weekend,” Schnuck said. “We have always known that a traditional grocery business is not going to work in this location.”
The store is expected to employ about 70 associates, depending on the level of business it can achieve.
Meanwhile, Collora has become immersed in the neighborhood and has joined three downtown organizations. Describing the configuration for the new store, Collora said, “The space was not built with a grocery in mind, so we will have to tear out the concrete flooring and lay a foundation suitable to our needs. Electrical wiring will have to be reconstructed to allow for the refrigerated units we are using.”
The new urban marketplace will be the family-held grocer’s ninth store in the city of St. Louis. Schnuck Markets, Inc. currently operates 103 stores all told, including five Logli stores, and 99 pharmacies in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Iowa.