Residents offer input on grocery store options

Photo by Amy Cherry - St. Marys Mayor Lou Radkowski listens to comments by residents and business owners during a community meeting about grocery store and supermarket options in the city.
Amy Cherry
Staff Writer

A community meeting focusing on grocery store and supermarket options garnered a variety of input from residents, business owners, city staff and Chamber of Commerce representatives.
The two-hour meeting, hosted by St. Marys Mayor Lou Radkowski, took place Wednesday evening at the St. Marys Public Library where several members of St. Marys City Council as well as representatives from the St. Marys Area Chamber of Commerce were in attendance along with John Fox, owner of Pfaffs Market in St. Marys, and Steve Cleveland, owner of Elk County Food stores in Ridgway and Johnsonburg.
"If we can stop the exodus of people leaving the area this will help all our industries in retaining our talent, knowledge and people," Radkowski said. "We need to get people to re-invest in the area."
While large grocery chain stores – including Riverside, Market Basket, BiLo and Giant Eagle – have come and gone within the city, it's the small stores that have remained a consistent presence in St. Marys.
Among them is Pfaffs Market, which has been in business for 70 years.
Residents have touted the small mom and pop shops as having friendly customer service, delivery options and employees who take the extra effort to carry groceries to customers’ vehicles, most of which cannot be found at large chain stores.
"Us and Pfaffs try to be who Walmart is not," Cleveland said.
Cleveland added he receives praise from several St. Marys customers, noting his business helps fill a void with something they don't have.
"We all help each other out," Fox said. "We don't compete against each other."
Radkowski questioned the audience as to what specifically they would like to see in a grocery store.
One woman said more smaller stores with a variety of departments such as produce, a butcher, flowers and more would be ideal.