The Northside neighborhoods have a few grocery stores – a Kuhn’s in Brighton Heights, a handful of corner grocers throughout the neighborhoods and two Giant Eagle stores. One is on Brighton Road near the border with Ross Township and the other in on Cedar Avenue, in the heart of East Allegheny. We typically refer to is as the ‘Cedar Avenue’ store.
Recently, this independently owned store was sold back to corporate Giant Eagle, news that has caused much rejoicing in the community. The previous owners were not invested in the community and outright hostile about their engagement. The store is definitely on the run downside and could use a good polishing.
But what we the store needs most is to make a commitment to the residents of the Northside to remain open in our neighborhood, to provide access to quality food and groceries that would otherwise be arduous to find without a car and to invest in their workforce to keep the store running at optimum efficiency as well as providing good jobs for the neighborhood.
I’ve had my ups and down with Giant Eagle, but overall I’ve been a consistent customer for decades for three core reasons
- The workforce is organized and I value a company that works with organized labor to create good jobs, keep people safe and run the business efficiently.
- The company works with persons who are disabled which is another form of job creation that I value as a customer.
- It is local – my money stays in this region and I see that in the various things Giant Eagle sponsors and supports as well as the expansion of the franchise itself.
The Cedar Avenue store is an anchor on the Northside with direct ties to East Ohio Street, Allegheny Center’s emerging businesses, and the development around PNC Park and Heinz Field. It is not a full-service store and that’s a good thing. I buy my groceries and then head up to The Priory Fine Pastries or to the BreadWorks for baked goods. I combine a grocery shop with a trip to the nearby Farmer’s Market for fresh produce. I buy fresh flowers at K.S. Kennedy Floral. In one fell swoop of about 2.6 miles on my car, I can do all of these things plus my banking and buy some gas. If I call Giogio’s Pizza to place my order when I’m in line at the store, it is ready for me when I drive past.
For me, these are conveniences because I have a vehicle to drive to the stores in the burbs. It takes 3x as long to do that so its annoying, but it is possible. I can’t imagine making that trek without the benefit of a car or having to carry my groceries on/off busses and on the walk home. We are all familiar with food desserts, so I think we should work together as a community to ensure that Giant Eagle stays open on Cedar Avenue to avoid that fate for our neighbors and ourselves.
I think if the corporation invested in the workforce and the facilities, they would attract many new customers who currently do drive to the suburbs or nearby convenience stores for smaller items. We all want to see good jobs in our neighborhoods and we understand that paying fair wages with benefits requires that we invest in the business.
To be honest, we all have ideas and suggestions for the store. Is it possible to buy the Sunoco and convert to a Get Go? Can management work with the jitney drivers (who want to make a living, not support parking lot violence) to make sure people can access that transportation resource? Can we put that unused bakery to good use selling something else? Can some of the frozen pizza space be reallocated to healthier options?
To keep this conversation going, I urge you to sign the petition set up by Pittsburgh United to keep an open and transparent dialogue with Giant Eagle.