Giant Eagle Buckeye
Square Going Going Gone?
Reading the Cleveland dot com article about the closing of the Giant Eagle, the anchor store in Buckeye Square I thought perhaps I attended a different meeting. Dot com’s synopsis was that Buckeye was begging Giant Eagle to stay. At the meeting hosted at Buckeye Area Development Corporation 11802 Buckeye Rd. in Cleveland, one community member, Rowland Mitchell was enlisting people for a “please don’t go,” rally to take place Saturday the 21st. It seems to me the more vocal response was more like, “bye-bye Giant Eagle, don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord… gave ya lots of cushion,” something to that effect. Also there were over 50 people seated there and more than a few standing.
At the meeting, immediately I thought I smelled the faint odor of dog and pony poo wafting through the air. There are seven Giant Eagle stores closing between Cleveland and Columbus information that did not come out in the meeting.
One of the first questions posed to councilman Ken Johnson was: “from your vantage point what leverage do you have to suggest Giant Eagle can be kept from closing? The Giant Eagle board of directors is obligated by law to make a profit. I’d rather spend time tonight working toward a plan to reuse the space.”
Rumor has it Giant Eagle is losing $1.3 million a year. It wasn’t made clear if this was just the Buckeye store or if it included the store on Loraine ave., in West Park and others. I may have added the “per year” part. Rumor because even though John Hopkins, Exec Dir., Buckeye Area Development Corp. and councilman Ken Johnson say Giant Eagle management told them this, Giant Eagle has made no public statement confirming. For some perspective, If the Buckeye store lost $3,561.64 daily they would lose $1.3 million by year’s end.
I heard blah blah blah from John Hopkins who, nonetheless had some facts and background leading up to the impending closing date of February 4th. He seemed to know what councilman Ken Johnson seemed not to know, jumping in often answering questions directed at the councilman, but, Ken has a great smile. Just sayin.’
John Hopkins and company proceeded directing facilitating “the agenda” as if stopping this closing was a probability waiting to happen. Maybe if we could just put our collective creativity to work, change our buying habits, and think of something to show them why we were worthy in the next 15 days , they would stay. Forgive the dualism but either John, Ken, and Mamie are not disposed to serve the community around this issue, the dog and pony poo smell was not my imagination or they don’t know how.
Early on, it seemed clear there was no leverage. Available options had been exhausted. Even phone calls to Giant Eagle were not being returned to council folks. Then what leverage could we the community exert? In my opinion fa get about it, nada. Several people went through the motion of signing a “please don’t go” letter passed out by Buckeye development. I and others disdainfully chose not to sign. I think I feared getting dog and pony poo on my hands. By now the stench was horrendous, the dogs were jumping through hoops and the horses were prancing.
I spoke to Giant Eagle Buckeye from top management to folks on the floor, the message was unwavering, “February 4th we’re out.” Shelves are clearing and a manager told me there would be a going out of business sale.
One man in Wednesday’s gathering recounted that he’d done lots to fight the closing and that John Hopkins, Ken Johnson, and Mamie Mitchell all told him not to get it twisted there is nothing that could be done. And yet here John stood with a partially prepared list from his agenda of what Giant Eagle needed to do to bring back shoppers apparently to stop the $1.3 million hemorrhaging.
John and Ken said the Canadian company holding the lease was willing to acquiesce to maybe lowering the rent to keep the giant. I'm not sure what their incentive would be, but once again it was unclear how much money Buckeye was losing. Giant Eagle has a lease for the next 2 or 3 years.
There was little covered this night that did not fall between this beginning question and comment: If Giant Eagle is not making money you can’t make them stay. So why was John doggedly sticking to his one and only agenda point? I also wondered why in light of facts John gave about a population exodus that started without break from 1990 through 2016.
Why was he trying to stick to a list of what needs to be done?
Yes I’m fixated on John’s agenda. He said people don’t like Giant Eagle so they don’t go there. His list addressed what the community needed to see happen to get folks to shop at Giant Eagle. You know... just to get us thinking in the right direction.
So what was on his misguided agenda? I’ll sum it up. To woo shoppers back Giant Eagle should recognize shoppers want good service and fresh meats and produce... and comply. Huh!? Let’s overstate the obvious; Bad customer service + poor product which usually equals store outta business doesn’t help matters here.
Incredulously John thought to press deeper surely there was something equally as important and yes there was more, shut my mouth! Other issues included a steep pitch getting into the parking lot that scrubbed some cars' bottom, the store needed a facelift, potholes and someone else couldn’t get chicken backs. Who knew?
Apparently there are Giant Eagle groupies like John that will drive out of the community past Zagara’s in the Heights, Heinen's in Shaker, Whole Paycheck, not think of University Circle Inc's., (UCI) Constantino’s or Rumi’s on Carnegie to frequent other Giant Eagles miles away. To me this is some wild sh*t and I asked people around me, “yall do that?!” John or someone mentioned going to Legacy Village Giant Eagle, it is almost 5 miles away! No need to mention Save-A-Lot and Aldi’s.
If one has the resources to drive past stellar grocers and Dave's at Shaker Square to go to a favorite name brand grocer what’s the big deal? "Let em close," they probably think. Well empty vacant properties is almost always an issue so there’s that. The elephant in the room is that for many of those that don't have transportation this is not an inconvenience it’s a hardship. There was no mention of no more Giant Eagle pharmacy nor a mention of how people near it without transportation absolutely depend on it. Oh yes did I mention that Dave’s gets their food from the big G? John addressed people in the community affluent enough to shop where they wanted. Of course people that drive need to frequent the store to support people with less income but I question are there enough Giant Eagle groups to make a difference in light of other more catastrophic issues.
Councilwoman Mamie Mitchell was not in attendance and councilman Johnson wished he had not been and was doing his best to leave until someone questioned, “you’re an elected official?” Y’all know the drill, “let me show my face and disappear.” To be sure often this is a requirement to do all ya have to do as a local public servant; I know Mamie is responsible for a large area. This wasn’t that. After being called on the carpet for tryna shuffle off to wherever he found it in his heart to stay, smile in place though his presence would not have been missed. However he is supposedly accountable to his constituency.
Mamie’s mild mannered assistant was there. (not Clark Kent he’s from Glenville and he would have been welcomed.) It seems kryptonite for these folks is a vested thinking audience. Forgive me for judging but his demeanor (he also has a great smile) and lack of a notepad led me to believe Mamie was in for a very very short briefing. … “Well you know, Ken said some stuff, then John said some stuff and people in the audience kept saying stuff, yeah… that was about it. We good? Oh yeah a guy in a pink tie had stuff too.” The guy in the pink tie was Freddie L. Collier, Jr., Cleveland's Director of City Planning. He seemed authentic, he was knowledgeable and spoke outside the myopic narrative set up by the stranglehold of an agenda John doggedly pushed though John was told from the beginning in so many words, “we don’t want your agenda”. Mr. Collier spoke of the cyclical nature of grocery stores “going dark,” an industry term for closing and indicated some cycles are every 20 year or so. More importantly he floated the notion of planning out next steps not just throwing concessions at a store to stay. To me it sounded like he was tryna use the “e” word...empowerment, more Kryptonite. Many in the seats felt exactly the same way. If negotiation lead to the store staying or another store coming in… how about an impact clause for starters? A contractual legally binding clause that assures if an organization leaves before the end of a lease or contract they have to pay what it costs the community to lose them.
Another issue was “shrinkage”; part of shrinkage is theft. Several attested to actually seeing people steal.
John Hopkins, asserted the economy and a devastating population exodus between 1990 and 2016 greatly contributed to the $1.3 million yearly red ink.
When I asked a mid level manager why they were leaving indeed losing money was an issues. Curiously though the first thing out one manager's mouth was, “Well they didn’t fight hard enough.” Take that for what it’s worth I don’t think any amount of fight that didn’t impact the bottom line would have done any good in the eleventh hour.
In sharp contrast to this Ringling Brothers extravaganza there were 2 or 3 impromptu circles with Giant Eagle as a topic, through Neighborhood Connections’ Neighbor Up gathering at community hub Rice library the night before. They yielded more results in 20 minutes than this albeit hurried, planned community thingy. There are several Neighbor Up sessions a month. The one in Buckeye is every 3rd Wednesday of the month at 6:00pm. I’ll say “Bump and Spark” to whet your curiosity but go here [http://www.neighborhoodgrants.org/neighborup/ ] to find out more. Let this be my invitation to John, Ken, Mamie, pastors that were present and all… See how it's done. They may not ask you to remove your hat for the Jesus prayer but nobody’s perfect and beside my Muslim and Buddhist brothers might feel more comfortable.
I have some questions.
When did West Park neighbors and ward sixteen's councilman Brian Kazy find out? They were organized at their store rally/protest on the 14th with media present (see for yourself). There were handmade signs and there were other Kinko's like pro signs in the crowd, I counted at least three. It was a little more than a last minute effort. They were moving and engaged at least by the 14th. Buckeye had their 1st meeting the 18th, no moving no engaging just cauliflower, dip and frustration. Were they to organize as ward 16 did maybe they could show up and show out by the 25th. Instead of planning this John, Ken and others preempted Rowland Mitchell's Saturday rally by standing before the cameras on the 20th with a measly 12 people. How pathetic.
Anytime you get people together and focused there is a breeding ground for great possibilities. Not so much this night. Why? I think John and the gang had an agenda.
Is Zack Reed in ward 16 or ward 2? Why was he there and not here? Ooooh yeah I forgot he’s think mayoral race. So he did show up on the 20th for the photo op.. Well done sir, well done.
Lastly why do we subject ourselves to this behavior? Well this is my two cents and man would I love to be wrong.
The Pittsburgh-based grocery chain says the following stores will close on Saturday, March 4:
1000 East Dublin-Granville Road
777 Neil Avenue
1760 Hilliard-Rome Road
The in-store pharmacies at the Hilliard-Rome Road and East Dublin-Granville Road stores closure on January 14.