The price is right, we just need the attitude

City Scuffle

Three years ago Walter Dixie approached Mayor Matt Driscoll seeking support for developing a supermarket to serve Southside neighborhoods. The mayor told him he didn’t have any experience for such a development. Dixie assembled a team to study the effort, and last week led a busload of representatives from church congregations and neighborhood organizations on a fieldtrip to Vestal, outside Binghamton, for a tour of the newly opened Price Rite, a supermarket chain he hopes will set up shop in a building owned by his Jubilee Homes on the 600 block of South Avenue. The 48-store chain will be adding a location at the corner of Erie Boulevard East and Teall Avenue in October.

“We know we’re always cheaper than everybody else,” store president Neil Duffy told the delegation. That level of economy could be maintained, he noted, by doing very little advertising, having customers provide or buy bags and bag their own groceries, not operating a deli, and not taking checks or coupons. A typical Price Rite, he said, hires a minimum of 85 percent of its employees from the local community, most of them in 30-hour part-time slots, but with health benefits and 401K plans, 100 to 125 per store. The stores do not sell beer or cigarettes. Prices at Vestal Price Rite were so incredibly low that many of the Syracusans began shopping as the tour moved through the aisles.

State funding necessary

Duffy said the parent company, Wakefern Food Corporation, was currently conducting a market study on the feasibility of the South Avenue location, but reflected that Syracuse could be considered a two-, maybe three-store market. Dixie’s team has already completed a study, determining that there would be enough draw from the 13205 and 13207 zip codes to sustain the Southside market. Price Rite would lease the building—the company has done drawings for expansion of the site to 35,000 square feet—and invest some of the start up funds required, but a significant grant from the state regional council would be necessary to get the doors open. “If they gave Nojaim’s a million and a half,” Dixie repeated throughout the tour, “they should give us two million.”

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