Taking Stock

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Local Notes

Sprouts had a huge opening at its first Mid-Atlantic unit, a 30,000 square foot unit at the site of a former Mars Super Market in Ellicott City, MD. Having visited many Sprouts stores out West in recent years, I’ve been long impressed by the company’s business model and even more impressed by its ability to execute its perishables-driven merchandising plan at store level. After being open for more than a month, the new unit is still clocking in at better than $400K per week and I’ve noticed a lot of full baskets at the checkout. Sprouts is reportedly looking for about 15 new Mid-Atlantic sites as part of a very aggressive corporate expansion strategy. Next to open will be its Towson, MD unit – at the site of a former HH Gregg space – which will debut on July 11. Also scheduled to open later this year is its first Philadelphia store in the new Lincoln Square development on Broad Street and Washington Avenue in Philadelphia. However, one prospective new store deal that fell through was the Moorestown (NJ) Mall in part of the old Macy’s location. At the Ellicott City opening, it great to see Dan Sanders, former Acme president (2010-2012), at the new Sprouts unit, who now serves as chief operations officer for the Phoenix-based merchant. I’ve always admired Sanders’ integrity, humility and access, even when Acme (under the misguided leadership of Supervalu) was enduring the worst period in its history. He’s in a much better place now and is a key component in the recent success of Sprouts…Walmart, which is building the fewest bricks & mortar stores in its history this year (under 10 units), is still tending to its knitting. The Behemoth announced it will spend $28 million to upgrade eight Maryland stores over the next nine months, including units in Abingdon, Catonsville, Frederick, Hanover, Landover Hills, Randallstown, Severn and Waldorf. Ten more locations will shortly roll out curbside grocery pickup, giving the chain 21 stores in the Old Line state that feature that service…Weis Markets is also expanding its “Weis 2 Go” online ordering and curbside pick-up service. The Sunbury, PA-based regional chain will add 25 additional stores to its already 56 units that offer that convenient service later this month. Also, a tip of the hat to the entire Weis team on the opening of their newest store, a 67,500 beauty that debuted on April 12 in Nottingham, MD. The former Kmart location (BTW, all of the Kmart “taint” has been purged from the environs) has blossomed into one of Weis’ prettiest stores and, given the level of the competition in the surrounding Perry Hall market, will surely give its rivals fits…the banners of the former Ahold USA divisions (Giant Food, Giant/Martin’s, Stop & Shop) will now utilize the “Guiding Stars” nutrition rating system to help consumer evaluate the nutritional value of products on the shelves. The two former Delhaize America banners – Hannaford and Food Lion – have been deploying “Guiding Stars” for more than a decade. Ahold USA and Delhaize America officially became one U.S. operating company – Ahold Delhaize USA – on January 1…after a nearly 60-year run, Chevy Chase Supermarket has closed its doors. The single store operation, originally owned by Bernard Freeman and his son-in-law Walter Kirsch, was run by Walter’s sons Kevin and Jason. For many years, the Kirschs served the toney Montgomery County berg with unique products and a high-level of customer service. Unfortunately, the family lost its lease at the Connecticut Avenue site (a new mixed-use development is slated to be built there) and are searching for a new location. In the meantime, they’re opening the “Corner Market & Pharmacy” in Rockville, MD later this month. And, later this year, Jason Kirsch will debut a 7,000 square foot specialty store – the Poolesville Market – in beautiful rural (if there is still such a thing in Montgomery County) Poolesville, MD…better news for our longtime buddies at B. Green & Co., who will open their third Green Valley Marketplace late this year or early in 2019. The new 31,256 square foot store will be on the site of the former Mars Super Market (which closed in 2016) at York and Padonia Roads in Timonium, MD. B. Green operates two other Green Valley units in Elkridge, MD and Arnold, MD and also runs two Food Depot urban supermarkets and two wholesale cash-and-carry locations in Baltimore City…Burris Logistics continues to grow, adding a 250,000 square foot refrigerated warehouse in McDonough, GA to its base. The new depot, located 30 miles from Atlanta, features 28,000 pallet positions and, according to Michael Pitcher, director of sales for the Delaware firm’s public refrigeration warehouse division, “The big benefit of the McDonough location (along the I-95 corridor) is that it enables our partners to for 80 percent of the population of the United states with a two-day transit.”…sadly, too many obituaries to report this month. Our sympathies to the family of John Gahan, former head grocery buyer for Mars Super Markets, who died earlier this month in Baltimore at the age of 71. John worked for the D’Anna family for more than 30 years, was beloved by his associates and highly respected by the reps and brokers who called on him…one of the most colorful and among my favorite baseball players has also passed away at the age of 73. Harold “Rusty” Staub, one of the last “bonus babies” to sign a major league contract with the old Houston Colts in 1963 was also one of the game’s best offensive players in the era he played (1963-1985). With a shock of red hair and a bon vivant swagger that was linked to his New Orleans roots, Staub was also one of the game’s most productive hitters. He later parlayed his popularity in New York (he had two stints with the Mets totaling nine years) into a successful restaurant career…from the world of entertainment, R. Lee Ermey has passed away. The former Marine Corps drill instructor who turned his in your face military personality into many popular and memorable war movie roles, died earlier this month at the age of 74. Ermey enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1961 at the age of 17. He was discharged in 1972 and in 1979 served as a technical advisor in Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam war epic “Apocalypse Now.” Eight years later, he got his big break in another great director’s version of the Vietnam War – Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket.” From that point on, the die was cast – Ermey would serve as the prototypical “hard ass” military instructor in more than 20 TV and film roles…if you’re a baby boomer who grew up in the New York metro area, then you will remember Chuck McCann who appeared on many Sunday morning children’s shows, most notably “Let’s Have Fun” on WPIX in the early and mid-1960s. McCann passed away earlier this month at the age of 83. Besides his work as a children’s entertainer, he did many voiceovers for cartoon shows and appeared in another 10 movies. What you probably didn’t know about the man who is credited with doing one of the best Laurel and Hardy impersonations ever, was that one of his best personal friends was Hugh Hefner and that the Chuckster spent a lot of his free time hanging out with Hef at the Playboy Mansion…one of the best directors of the past generation has also left us. Czech filmmaker Milos Forman, whose American movies included “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975) and “Amadeus” (1984), was not only admired only by me, but by many others for of his uncanny ability to make the outsider in many of his movies evolve into a hero. Forman, the orphan of Nazi Holocaust victims, first gained fame in his native Czechoslovakia for directing quirky comedic films such as “Loves of A Blonde” and “The Fireman’s Ball” (a very funny flick). He left his homeland after Communist troops invaded the country in 1968. But his American cinematic debut a year later, “Taking Off,” flopped. After waiting five years, actor and producer Michael Douglas gave him a second chance and Forman hit the jackpot with “Cuckoo’s Nest.” Other well-known Forman efforts include “Hair” (1979), “Ragtime” (1981), “The People vs. Larry Flynt” (1996) and the much underrated “Man on the Moon” (1999), his depiction of comedian Andy Kaufman’s life.” Milos Forman was 86.