Clark Metro community seeks replacement for Tops
by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, June 2005) On April 28 about eighty people met at the Redeemer Crisis Center on W. 30th and Walton with a common goal of keeping a supermarket in the Clark Avenue neighborhood. (Editor’s note: The Tops at 3024 Clark Avenue closed on May 7th).
Ward 14 Councilman Nelson Cintron Jr said, “Tops is leaving and not coming back.” He then asked neighborhood residents to think about what kind of store they would like to see replace Tops. He said the task now is “how do we improve the site and bring in a grocery more sensitive to the neighborhood.”
City of Cleveland Economic Development Director Gregory G. Huth said both Tops and Giant Eagle are looking for larger stores with 60,000+ square feet. “Tops doesn’t know how to market to our inner city neighborhoods,” he said.
The store is owned by a developer, not Tops, said Huth. The city would work with the neighborhood to find a grocery store that will serve the neighborhood, and he was here to listen to what neighborhood residents wanted, he said.
Sophia Cruz, a resident of Scranton Castle, said she would like to see a Marc’s come to the site. “Everyone likes Marc’s,” she said. Cruz noted the closest Marc’s grocery is on W. 140th and Lorain Ave.
Huth said the site is the right size for use as a Marc’s store. “We definitely want to reach out to them,” he said.
Other residents suggested a Save-a-Lot or a Bi-Rite for the site.
Councilman Cintron mentioned that several local Cleveland entrepreneurs were interested in creating a grocery store on the Tops site. Cintron noted the family that owns Tony’s Market and owns and operates the Dairy Queen on Clark (Henry Ziadeh and Wally Saleh) was interested in opening a supermarket on the site. Cintron then introduced Rey Galindo, whose family owns and operates the Luchita’s restaurants throughout Greater Cleveland. Cintron noted that the Galindo brothers were already part of an investment group working to save the Belkin Building on W. 25th and Clark Avenue. Cintron asked Galindo to speak of his family’s interest in investing in the Tops site.
Galindo said his family is opening a marketplace in Lorain, Ohio. He said the family hopes to open five or six such marketplaces. He said the idea is to create a one-stop shopping experience that would include a supermarket selling a full range of food products, but also foods catering to the local Latin community. In addition, the marketplace would offer other services such as a bank, a bakery, a butcher shop, a legal clinic and a doctor’s office. The market place Galindo envisions would also include a Luchita’s restaurant. Galindo says he would like to put the marketplace in at the Tops location. Speaking of his commitment to the Clark Metro neighborhood, Rey Galindo said, “I grew up in this neighborhood. I’d like to give something back and invest in the neighborhood.”
Residents raised their major concern to Galindo, “Will the prices be competitive?” Residents generally thought a community owned store was a good idea as long as the prices were fair, similar to what Tops offered. Another concern was whether all those services proposed by Galindo would fit on the Tops site and still allow enough space for groceries.
Councilman Cintron pointed out the advantages of local ownership. He used the example of Dave’s as a locally owned store that hired union labor and invested back in the community. Another advantage of local ownership, he stated, was in securing donations for community groups for projects benefiting the neighborhood. A local owner was easier to contact and more likely to give than a large corporation.
As for the size of the new market place, Cintron mentioned that owners could purchase more houses to make the site bigger.
Redeemer Crisis Center Director Diane Zellmer noted the importance of a grocery store in the neighborhood. She said many people in the neighborhood can’t afford transportation. She said of 134 families coming to the crisis this past week, 64% of them walked. Bus fare, at $3 per trip, four weeks a month and two times each week would present a hardship for many of those families, she said.
Councilman Cintron promised to contact the Regional Transit Authority to assist with a circulator bus route that would be sensitive to the needs of neighborhood residents.
Zellmer said the neighborhood on Clark Ave has had a grocery for 50 to 60 years: Pick-n-Pay, Finast and then Tops. She said she was afraid that Tops would “buy more years on the lease to prevent other stores from coming in.” She noted that when a supermarket closed on Biddulph it continued to control the lease for 10 years so no other supermarket could move into the site.
Steve Kruger, executive director of the Clark Metro Development Corporation, promised to assemble a committee of community residents to give feedback to the city as to what would go into the Tops space. He promised the community that the committee would “give you control over what goes in that space.” Kruger asked for residents to volunteer to sit on the committee and to give direction to the city as to what they would like to see at the site. He said if the committee says to me “they don’t want x, y and z, then I can go to the councilman and say my community doesn’t want x, y and z.” Residents and stakeholders interested in participating on this committee can contact Clark Metro Development Corporation at 741-9500.
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