Long shelf life: Some closed St. Louis-area grocery stores are packing in new users | Local company
DELLWOOD — Years ago, neighbors would come to this mall on West Florissant Avenue to shop. Soon, residents will come for childcare, career advice, offices, and even worship.
Pastors Ken and Beverly Jenkins, through their nonprofit Refuge and Restoration, are transforming this long vacant Schnucks, north of Chambers Road, into a new $16 million community center they call R&R Marketplace.
“We see this abandoned property every day,” said Ken Jenkins, 56. “We always thought it would be a neat place.”
Grocery stores, like this one, which closed in 2006, have closed here and there over the years. But the closure of Shop ‘n Save in 2018 emptied dozens of empty stores, each averaging around 50,000 square feet, into the market. Most are still empty. But some have turned into discount grocery stores, health clinics, even wine and cheese shops.
Commercial real estate experts say closings are part of the cyclical nature of real estate. With more time, these spaces will eventually find new users, even if it takes a bit of creativity.
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“It’s still a business in a constant state of transition,” said Joe Ciapciak, general manager of St. Louis-based commercial real estate firm Pace Properties, which marketed some of the empty stores.
Shop ‘n Save hit the market in 2018 after Minnesota-based parent company Supervalu sold the chain. Schnucks acquired 19 of the stores, renaming them Schnucks and later closing nine due to poor sales. The company said all nine were within 3 miles of other Schnucks and it was also opening stores – nearly two dozen over five years.
Still, the Shop ‘n Save outlet left about two dozen former grocery stores vacant across the metro area. Most are now owned by various owners — Schnucks is still paying leases on some and looking for a buyer for his old St. Ann store. So far, at least eight of the stores have been or will be refurbished.
Discount grocery chain Aldi has taken over one in the Tower Grove South neighborhood of St. Louis. In Ballwin, Aldi has taken over part of another, with Ace Hardware set to move in alongside it. A warehouse, gym, and wine and cheese shop moved to a store in Kirkwood. BJC HealthCare has transformed a former Schnucks into an outpatient care center in Edwardsville. The state of Missouri even used a Festus site for a COVID-19 vaccination clinic.
In May, a former Schnucks store in Green Park in southern St. Louis County will become Kloss Furniture. The company has already converted a grocery store in Highland, its hometown, and the brand is considering other locations.
“Grocery stores have been great for furniture stores because they’re big open spaces,” Chairman Josh Kloss said in an email.
Location is everything in real estate – but competition and the cost of renovating a space also play a big part in redevelopment of a property, said Ian Silberman, director of Saint-Based Location Commercial Real Estate. -Louis, who also represented landlords and tenants. .
“Real estate just isn’t something where you snap your fingers and deals happen,” Silberman said. “The reality is that it could have been years and years of work that people don’t see that led to land thefts and the opening of a store.”
Lately, costs have been rising for building materials and labor, making it harder for landlords to subdivide large spaces and find tenants who will afford those costs, Pace’s Ciapciak said.
“It’s always been that way, but it’s been exacerbated a bit,” Ciapciak said.
In Dellwood, the Jenkins are planning a fall opening of R&R Marketplace at 10148 West Florissant Avenue. The project hasn’t nailed down all of its funding — the couple have secured corporate sponsors and tax credits, but still need to cover a multimillion-dollar gap, they said.
But they are excited about what is to come. R&R will provide vocational training for trades and the geospatial industry. They aim to open 100 preschool slots in the daycare. They envision a banking center, event space, computer lab and coworking facilities. The Jenkins said they also wanted to move their church into space.
And they hope residents and businesses from across the region will come to use their services.
“We have a lot of resources around us, but not necessarily accessible to us,” said Beverly Jenkins, 49. “We want our communities to go beyond postcodes. One of the transformative measures that will hopefully come out of this project will be the end of the postcode mentality.
Resident Michael Davis, 67, answered the door on Wednesday at a brick ranch on a quiet yard nearby. An American flag was displayed on his porch. Davis said he moved there in 2006, just before Dellwood Schnucks closed. He didn’t know that R&R was intended for space.
Neighbor Floyd Harrison, 49, also shopped at old Schnucks.
They both said they wanted a grocery store to return to the old strip mall. But, more than anything, they liked the fact that someone was doing something.
“Anything,” Harrison said, “that helps kids and job skills is good.”