ROCK ISLAND — One store closed, but to the relief of Rock Island residents, another one has opened.
Save More, a new grocery store in the old Save-A-Lot building, opened for business Wednesday morning at 2627 7th Ave.
Six months after the Save-A-Lot closed unexpectedly, stranding neighbors without a nearby grocery, Save More is bringing inexpensive foodstuffs back to the Greenbush neighborhood.
“The city needs this store,” said owner Jaswinder Singh, who also owns the Save More at 405 E. Locust St. in Davenport. “There’s nothing here. The community needs it.”
Singh also plans to open a Save More in Milan within a few months. That store, which would also open in an old Save-A-Lot building, will require significant cleaning before doors can open. The Rock Island property required a month of cleaning before opening.
Singh said he wants the new Rock Island store to serve low-income people in the area, a group often neglected by grocers.
“We saw a number of people outcry in this community that they wanted a grocery store back,” said Mike Thoms, mayor of Rock Island. “A number of (residents) here don’t have transportation, or it’s limited. This makes it a nice neighborhood grocery store for them to do their shopping.”
Thoms and others praised the entrepreneurship of the Singh family for bringing a grocery back to the neighborhood.
The store currently has 11 employees, Singh said, and more will be hired.
At the grand opening, shoppers were touring the store armed with shopping carts and smiles. Area residents have had to travel farther to shop at Hy-Vee and Jewel stores in Rock Island and Moline since Save-A-Lot closed, and they said they plan to frequent Save More because of its location and lower costs.
Marlis Beechamp, of Moline, is a varsity bargain hunter who said she shops anywhere she can find a deal.
“I was pretty upset when Save-A-Lot closed, and I didn’t really even shop here that much,” Beechamp said. She stopped by Save More on its opening morning for T-bone steaks, which were on sale for $3.99 per pound. Save More will be a fixture in her grocery-store circuit as long as the deals stay generous, she said.
Some neighbors had protested the store’s plans to sell liquor, but Save More obtained a liquor license from the Rock Island City Council in April. At the store’s grand opening, a wide variety of alcoholic beverage were on sale.
Regulars of Save-A-Lot will find a familiar store in Save More.
“The owners’ request was to try and look like what was here before: Save-A-Lot,” said John Furst, district manager at Associated Wholesale Grocers, a Kansas City-based food wholesaler that works with independent supermarkets and grocery stores.
Furst said that the store’s inventory and layout were tailored to the community. For example, more Hispanic and Asian foods will be carried since there are large numbers of Hispanic and Asian residents in the area, he said. “We try to accommodate.”
Singh said that the store is “actively working” to earn status with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The federal assistance program provides nutritious foods and other services to low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5.
The Rock Island Save-A-Lot was a lifeline for WIC recipients. The Save More store in Davenport had WIC approval before opening, but the Rock Island store has yet to obtain it, Singh said.
As his store began its first day of what residents hoped would be a long life, Singh offered his own gratitude.
“I want to thank the City of Rock Island, the city council, and the neighborhood,” he said. “They’ve given me opportunity to come here.”