Raleigh Save-A-Lot opening brings awareness to local non-profits

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On Wednesday, April 1, 2015, Variety Wholesalers CEO Art Pope, joined Variety Wholesalers President Wilson Sawyer to officially open the doors to their newest store venture, a Save-A-Lot grocery store at 1610 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Raleigh.

Several local representatives were on hand to mark the occasion including Rep. Yvonne Lewis Holley and Raleigh District Councilman Eugene Weeks.  Holley praised Variety Wholesalers for the social impact the store will have on Raleigh, noting that some issues were beyond politics.  She also praised the number of jobs created and the effort Variety Wholesalers made to hire from the community.

At the grand opening, two separate $2,000 checks were presented to Inter-Faith Food Shuttle and the Salvation Army on behalf of Variety Wholesalers.

The news article below appeared online with the News & Observer on April 1.

Save-A-Lot store opens in Southeast Raleigh

Kroger left in 2012, leaving residents with few grocery options




A new Southeast Raleigh grocery store aims to fill a need for fresh, affordable food in a neighborhood where residents were left with few grocery options after a Kroger closed two years ago.

Save-A-Lot, part of a chain of more than 1,300 discount grocery stories, opened Wednesday in the former Kroger building on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Variety Wholesalers, headed by former state budget director Art Pope, owns the 18,000-square-foot store, along with a Roses store that’s connected to the new grocery.

Shoppers toured Save-A-Lot after a grand-opening ceremony Wednesday, searching out deals on fresh produce, meat, dairy and other foods.

They found an 8-pound bag of Red Delicious apples for $2.99, a box of elbow macaroni for 87 cents, a 2-pound pack of boneless pork chops for $6.55 and a gallon of whole milk for $3.75.

Lisa Toon, 51, said she’s relieved to see a grocery store return to the shopping center. Since Kroger closed, she’s had to drive past the empty building to get to the nearest grocery store and hasn’t been able to find groceries as cheaply as she would like.

“It will make life a whole lot easier,” she said as she and her husband, Ledell, pushed a cart with chicken, paper towels and eggs.

In late 2012, Kroger announced it would pull out of the location because of declining sales figures. Residents and elected officials said the move was a major loss and worried about how it would affect the neighborhood.

They especially had concerns about those without cars who have had to rely on several buses to get to the nearest full-service grocery stores about a mile away.

Of the 4,000 households within a mile of the store, 25 percent earn less than $15,000 a year and more than half earn less than $35,000.

The median household income in Wake County is about $66,000, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Variety Wholesalers bought the Kroger building last summer for $2.57 million, prompting public criticism from some community leaders who dislike Pope’s support for conservative causes.

At the store’s opening, Rep. Yvonne Lewis Holley, a Wake County Democrat, said the issue is not a political one.

“Guess what? When you’re hungry you don’t say are you a Democrat or a Republican,” she said. “Some issues exceed politics.”

In the state legislature, Holley has pushed to bring attention to the issue of “food deserts,” communities where families don’t have easy access to fresh, healthy and affordable food.

She said the new store also is important for the economic development it could help spur in the area by adding jobs and anchoring the shopping center.

The Save-A-Lot employs 27 people, and the Roses employs 70.

Variety Wholesalers officials have said the pairing of the Roses with a Save-A-Lot should encourage residents to make the trip to the shopping center, heading off the problems Kroger had in the location.

Customer Sharon Paige, 60, showed up to shop for groceries before the ribbon across the front of the building was even cut. She’s looking forward to buying household items at Roses, then heading next door to Save-A-Lot.

“You can do everything in one step,” said Paige, who said she may even walk to the store from her home in Chavis Heights.