09/06/06 — Discount grocery store opens doors in city on Berkeley Blvd.

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Discount grocery store opens doors in city on Berkeley Blvd.

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on September 6, 2006 1:48 PM

Nathan Arvin has seen the evolution of Save-A-Lot stores in his 20 years in "limited assortment groceries," and the new Goldsboro store and three others in the state are the most customer-friendly, he said.

The new store, which is located on Berkeley Boulevard, opened its doors this week, and is currently celebrating the grand opening.

Arvin is the operations manager for Saver Group, which Save-A-Lot asked to develop the three stores in North Carolina.

The other two are in Rocky Mount and Wilson. Save-A-Lot has 16 stores in North Carolina, but Saver Group owns only the three in the eastern part of the state, bringing Saver Group's total to 27 stores in several states.

While Save-A-Lot stores concentrate on cost-cutting to the point of customers having to bring their own bags and load them up themselves in some states, the Saver Group stores lean more toward customer service than the others. The Saver Group cashiers "scan and bag" for the customer.

It's all part of the evolution Arvin has witnessed over the years.

"When I was 15, we started stacking on wood bases. It's a lot more customer friendly now," he said. "We still have the labor-saving concept. We still stock the product in the cases they come in, but we're leaning more toward customer service."

A crowd was standing outside the door when the Goldsboro store opened Aug. 30. The first limited assortment grocer to hit Goldsboro, Save-A-Lot picks out one label of each product "and drops the cost as low as we can and sell it by the ton," Arvin said.

"Save-A-Lot has 1,500 stores nationwide, and the more stores, the more buying power. You''ll spend the same amount of money for a bottle of ketchup all over the U.S."

The brands are not generic, either, he said. They're private labels.

"I'm from Kentucky, and we did a survey on beef stews. Ours, Hargis House, was the most well-known."

Personnel is the biggest challenge in running a grocery store, "but that's true of every business," Arvin said. He said he expects to hire 25 local people. He comes to a new store, hires the manager and crew and gets things going before turning everything over to the manager.

"But I didn't have much to do here," he said.

Store Manager Robin Bell, a Goldsboro native, had already done most of the work.

He trained in the other stores for three months awaiting the opening of his own store, but he's no rookie. He's been in the grocery store business 33 years.

"It's kind of in my blood," he said. "I enjoy it."

The first week has gone really well, Bell said.

"Goldsboro in general has received the store really well," he said. "Most seem positive and say they're glad we are here."

Bell said he loves the many-faceted nature of the grocery business.

"I'm not doing the same thing all the time," he said. "I'm doing so many things, some times all at one time."