Save-A-Lot closes doors in city

Jeremy Styron-News-Herald

While Save-A-Lot has announced on its website the opening of numerous new stores across the nation, including three in Tennessee, the Bon Street location in Lenoir City has shuttered its doors, seemingly overnight.

Customers expecting the discount grocer to be open could be seen this past weekend walking to the front door, reading a sign posted on the door and then walking back to their cars or homes.

Ricky Lay, regional manager with Save-A-Lot, said he was searching for a better location for the store.

"I'm sorry I can't disclose that kind of information," Lay said when asked for reasons behind the store's closure. "All I can tell you is that we're looking for a better site."

Save-A-Lot spokesman Mike Siemienas said that he would not speculate as to whether the company had plans to open a new store in the future.

"The lease expired, and the store was under-performing, so the decision was made to close the store," Siemienas said.

Heather Wilson, co-owner of Lenoir City Flea & Antique Market, said her market has been wrangling with the landlord, New York City-based The Heights Real Estate Company, about fixing the roof since they moved in about two years ago.

"We would like to stay here, but the problem is the roof on the whole complex is pretty much about to fall in," Wilson said. "That's pretty much why Save-A-Lot had to get out."

"We're here fighting the leaks as they pop up and trying to stick out as long as we can," Wilson added.

She said the market expanded to an adjacent site a couple years ago, but when the roof collapsed in the new section, the market condensed back into the one unit.

The market was currently in contract negotiations with The Heights but have yet to come to an arrangement.

"To be honest, we were just talking about it today, and it appears, as of right now, there is no foreseeable end," Wilson said. "We can't come to an agreement. I guess you could say we're a bit in limbo."

Wilson's contact person at The Heights, Chuecky Tunn, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ya Ya's Cupcakery closed about three months after moving into another location in the same strip mall, while a children's consignment shop only last about a week, Wilson said.

"They were moving in and after about a week of moving in, I guess they noticed the leak, and we have never seen those guys again," she said.

Dale Creelman, who has been a vendor at the flea market for a little more than a year, said the roof has been a problem since he's been at the location.

"They would patch here and patch there and not really make a great deal of effort," Creelman said.

Creelman said that the landlord didn't seem to have any intention of making the necessary repairs.

"It just strikes me that the landlords are trying to push everybody out of here," he said. "(That's) just an impression I get. Like, maybe they've got an offer on the property, and somebody's going to buy it and bulldoze the building. I don't know. It's just an odd way for a landlord to try to create income out of his property."

Wilson also said Save-A-Lot's closure has affected her business as well as locals within walking vicinity of the store.

"Save-A-Lot being gone has made a major impact on our business," she said. "It's hurt the entire community really because there's like a retirement community that lives behind the complex, and they would all walk to Save-A-Lot to get their groceries."

Diane Grizzle, who lives near Save-A-Lot, said she had a Friday routine of visiting three stores in the same strip mall on Bonn Street.

"Well as of today, I didn't even know it was closing down," Grizzle said. "It was news to me the first of the week when they told me, and that's where we did our grocery shopping on Fridays, and then we went to the flea market and then we went to the Dollar General."

Grizzle said she wasn't sure where they would shop after the store shut down.

"It's really going to be a big change because I don't even know where we're going to do our grocery shopping today," she said when contacted Friday.

She said numerous residents who live in Spring Place Apartments depended on the three stores for food and other items each week. Some don't have transportation and walk to the shops.

"They walk over there to get their groceries," Grizzle said. "It's just sad that they're not going to be able to do that anymore, and some of them don't have family that they can depend on."