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Savin' a shop Featured

9:20am EDT September 30, 2002
When a blaze that started in the meat preparation area burned their Apollo Shop 'n Save to the ground in April 2001, sisters Connie Davis and Karen Stanford could have viewed the pile of ashes as an insurmountable setback.

"Not one thing was salvaged," says Davis.

Instead, the third-generation supermarket owners chose to consider it an opportunity.

But to make it worth the effort, they decided, they would have to expand the store and make some upgrades to compete and to attract their customers after the more than the year it would take to reopen their doors.

"We would not have built the same size store," says Davis.

Sixteen months later, a new Shop 'n Save opened at the same location, many of its employees returned to work there and customers have come back.

Davis and Stanford searched within a 15-mile radius of their existing location for a new site, but decided to remain at their Route 66 address to take advantage of customer loyalty.

The former store, more than 40 years old, was too small to offer some of the features that modern supermarkets offer their clientele. With the store competing with a Giant Eagle, an IGA and an independent supermarket, Davis and Stanford opted to double the size of their store to 18,000 square feet, adding a hot foods section to the deli and an expanded bakery and produce department, key attractions for shoppers in modern stores.

Davis cites several factors she says were critical in making the venture successful:

* To complete the expansion, Davis and Stanford had to obtain variances from the borough to expand the building and acquire adjacent parcels of property to accommodate the expansion. Davis credits the borough's variance committee's cooperation with helping to expedite the planning and construction.

* In a tight labor market, Davis says they were fortunate to have more than half of their 38 workers return, despite the 16-month shutdown. Many were long-term employees, some with more than 25 years at the store.

* Shop 'n Save, the franchiser, provided support through local direct mail advertising and logistic support during construction and in preparation for the store's reopening in August.

* The store retained strong customer loyalty, Davis says. When it reopened, Davis says, 200 people turned out for an unpublicized ribbon-cutting ceremony.