January, 2002
  Incentives Deal of the Month
   from Site Selection's exclusive New Plant database
$150,000 Award Will Keep 40-Year-Old Neighborhood Grocery Open in Akron, Ohio
Downtown Akron, Ohio
Acme's Tallmadge Ave. operation has been a fixture in Akron (pictured above) for more than four decades.
By JACK LYNESite Selection Executive Editor
of Interactive Publishing

AKRON, Ohio -- Though the holiday season is rife with gift giving, it's not traditionally a ripe time for proffering incentives. Whatever the reason, the season is usually one big slow news day when it comes to unwrapping incentive packages. An interesting package was recently unwrapped, however, in Akron, Ohio. Shortly before Christmas, the Akron City Council awarded US$150,000 to keep a grocery store in the neighborhood where it had been doing business for more than 40 years.
        The funding approval came after officials at Akron-based Acme Stores (www.acmemarkets.com) had questioned whether time had passed by its outlet in Akron's North Hill neighborhood. After standing for more than four decades on Tallmadge Ave., the Acme Fresh Market was finding it tough to compete with the higher-end big-box grocers that had located on the city's periphery. Officials at Acme, which has 16 Northeast Ohio locations, were reluctantly considering closing the operation and joining the suburban expansion drift.
        Obviously, any business unconcerned with profits won't long be a business. Still, there's a touch of Ebeneezer Scrooge's "bah, humbug!" in the notion of a neighborhood losing its only full-service grocery.
        The Akron City Council agreed on both counts. Having a full-service grocery store is one of the things that keeps residents rooted in a neighborhood, council members argued. And the North Hills store needed a better physical plant if it was going to compete, they said as they approved the $150,000.
        "It's a proactive approach," Councilman Don Mittiga, whose district includes the Tallmadge Ave. store, said at the council meeting. "Rather than them saying, 'we're leaving' and trying to help, we're offering an assistance package for them to upgrade their store and get a commitment from them to stay.''

'Much Easier to Keep
One Than to Find One'

The council's vote was more than a nice Christmas present for the North Hills neighborhood. It also echoed an economic development truism:
        "It's much easier to keep a store than to find one to move in," Mittiga noted, The North Hill store will likely use the funds to spruce itself up, bolstering its competitiveness with its big-box rivals. For the moment, though, exactly how Acme will use the incentives remains to be seen.
Akron's assistance for Acme's North Hill neighborhood grocery, said Akron Deputy Mayor for Economic Development James Phelps (pictured above), may come in helping bankroll an expansion or may be a grant for refurbishing the store's exterior.

        The city's $150,000 might be in the form of assistance in bankrolling an expansion, or it might materialize as a grant for refurbishing the store's exterior, James Phelps, Akron deputy mayor for economic development (www.ci.akron.oh.us/econom.html), told The Akron Beacon Journal (www.ohio.com/bj).
        Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic will negotiate the particulars of the final incentives contract with Albrecht Inc. (www.albrechtinc.com), an Akron-based real estate management company.
        Albrecht Inc.'s roots spring directly from Acme's corporate family tree. Fred Albrecht, then owner of the Acme grocery chain, created the real estate firm in 1932. Facing fast growth, Albrecht decided that the Acme needed its own corporate arm to handle the chain's real estate management.
        Albrecht Inc. has since branched out to serve a broader clientele. The company now owns and manages more than 4 million sq. ft. (360,000 sq. m.) of property in northeast Ohio.

Business Survived 11 Straight
Years of Operating in the Red

Keeping the North Hill store open in some ways continues a tradition for Acme Markets, which is still run by the Albrecht family.
        Fred Albrecht founded the chain in May of 1891, calling it "Albrecht's." Then, in a gesture that would likely warm Bob Crachitt's heart, Albrecht operated his one-room store at a loss for 11 consecutive years. The unpaid credit accounts kept piling up for tiny Albrecht's.
        Amazingly, Albrecht still made the business work. He closed his one Albrecht's store, reopened in 1901 as Acme Markets, and the chain expanded from there.

Editor's note: Watch for Site Selection's incentives analysis in the May 2002 issue.


ti0201bti0201b ©2002 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. Data is from many sources and is not warranted to be accurate or current.