After pushing for a grocery store in Pittsburgh's Garfield neighborhood for years, Bottom Dollar Food opened on Penn Avenue in June.
In November it was announced that another grocery chain, ALDI, Inc. had bought the low-cost food company for $15 million and would be closing the city's Bottom Dollar stores, including the six-month-old facility in Garfield. It is unclear whether another grocery store will open in its place.
Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation Executive Director Richard Swartz said after working so closely with Bottom Dollar they were disappointed to learn about the sale through other channels. Had the community development organization known that they were considering a sale, Swartz said they would have searched for a different grocer for the location.
Swartz said the store does many things for the community, such as providing easy access to fresh food for those who do not own cars. There is no direct bus line to other near-by grocery stores.
“So having a store on Penn Avenue was a tremendous convenience,” Swartz said. “Secondly, this store, by virtue of the fact that it’s owned by a separate chain altogether, brought competition into the East End in terms of the pricing of food products and goods.”
Bottom Dollar took the place of a vacant warehouse and Swartz said the store helped turn around a part of the business district that had languished for a long time.
“It’s a social meeting place," he said. "We have over 20 neighborhood residents that were initially hired for jobs at the store. So it’s really a way we were able to activate a block of the street that pretty much had been dead up until that point.”
Swartz said the community is dismayed about the pending closure, and also confused as to why the company would pour millions into opening a new store while also putting itself up for sale. The worst case scenario, according to Swartz, is that Aldi decides not to move from its location on Baum Boulevard to the larger Bottom Dollar site on Penn Avenue, and they are left with a big empty building.
If Aldi chooses not to move, Swartz said they are hoping the company will allow the 5200 Penn Avenue Bottom Dollar to be sold separately from the 65 other Bottom Dollars included in the sale, so that another grocer might use the facility.
“We are trying to talk with a grocery store operator over in Bloomfield who hopefully we’d be able to interest in this site, and if not that then perhaps another regional chain that would take a look at this site, possibly as a franchise location,” Swartz said.
Other Pittsburgh-area Bottom Dollar stores to be impact by the sale are located in Homestead, Plum, Baldwin, the North Hills, Castle Shannon, Carnegie, McKees Rocks, McKeesport and Penn Hills.