Saturday, January 26, 2008


First, there was Pick 'n' Pay, a successful grocery chain in northeastern Ohio.

Then came FINAST, FIrst NAtional STores, Incorporated. They absorbed Edwards and offered shoppers in the region quality products with professional service.

FINAST was eventually acquired by Royal Ahold from the Netherlands. In 1996, the giant food retailer would make a strategic decision to merge the chain into their TOPS division, based in Williamsfield, New York.

The result was a backward march in market share. TOPS had store procedures, merchandising techniques, and advertising that were all inferior to FINAST. Sales quickly reflected this reality. Competitor Rini-Rego Stop 'n' Shop began to increase their market share in the region.

After struggling for a few years, TOPS decided that eliminating their butchers and going with a pre-packaged meat program would help fortify their profitability. It proved to be a fatal mistake.

TOPS closed their northeastern Ohio stores in late 2006. Locations like the one at 8555 Market Street in Mentor were left to sit empty - alone and forgotten. Giant Eagle purchased eighteen of the forty-six stores. But the gap in market coverage was obvious.

Giant Eagle assumed a position of dominance after the demise of TOPS. But Wal-Mart, Super Kmart, and Target all benefited from their exit.

Only one major grocery chain remained in the greater Cleveland area. It was completely opposite to the bustling days when Kroger, A & P, Fazio's, Pick 'n' Pay, Stop 'n' Shop, Bi-Rite, Valu King, and Golden Dawn battled for consumer dollars.

Only time will reveal whether another grocery chain might come to operate in our corner of Ohio. Until then, customers are faced with the sight of empty stores around the region, and dwindling choices in their neighborhoods.


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