10/23/09: “Giant Seems Amenable to Staying at Eagle Village Site,” The Free Lance-Star

Giant Seems Amenable to Staying at Eagle Village
What’s the latest on the Giant in Eagle Village?

Wondering if the Giant in Eagle Village will ever get an update?

So was Jeff Rountree, chief executive officer of the University of Mary Washington Foundation and vice president of university advancement.

Talks with Giant Food, which has a long-term lease in Eagle Village, stalled over the summer–possibly, he suspected, because the Landover, Md.-based company was waiting to see if Eagle Village actually would be revamped and how the Wegmans opening last June would be received.

So last month Rountree sent a letter to Robin Michel, Giant Food’s new executive vice president and general manager.

“I attempted to lay out how important the store is for thousands of shoppers in our community, both young and old alike, and how our friends and neighbors in this community really count on Giant to be their source of food and supplies,” he said.

He said he also restated that the foundation will always want and need a grocery anchor in the former Park & Shop shopping center, which the foundation is turning into a pedestrian-friendly “village” with student housing, a parking garage, offices, restaurants and stand-alone shops.

“We would prefer to keep Giant, but only if they seriously work on the store’s infrastructure, concept and consumer service,” Rountree said. “Giant has some excellent models, both big and small, that could work well at our location.”

Michel contacted him immediately, he said, and followed up with a series of discussions “in which she pledged her support to come up with a good plan for all parties involved.”

Last week Michel dispatched two of her top officials for more talks and a tour of the site, where the first phase of the shopping center’s renovation is under way. Rountree said indications are that Giant plans to keep its store in Eagle Village and will come up with a concept for the store there within six months.

“Although no commitments have been made by Giant, I get the sense that we are moving forward in a productive way, and I remain hopeful that exciting things are on the horizon for the Giant store at Eagle Village,” he said.

Jamie Miller, Giant Food’s public affairs manager, said that the company is continuing “to negotiate with Mary Washington University, and we are committed to staying in the Park & Shop shopping center.”

Giant Food opened the 20,250-square-foot store in Park and Shop in 1963. At the time, it boasted the latest in display racks and meat processing equipment, had an in-house bakery and put special emphasis on its produce section.

The store got a facelift in the 1980s but has been overshadowed as Giant Food has opened bigger, more up-to-date stores, including two Super Giants, in the area.

Competition for shoppers heated up even more with the arrival of Wegmans in Celebrate Virginia South last June. The high-end grocery store drew about 20,000 people on opening day, which is just a few thousand shy of the total number of people living in the city of Fredericksburg.

Rountree said he thinks Giant can come up with a concept that works in a community with a Wegmans, partly because the Eagle Village location is within walking distance for many residents and partly because some shoppers just want to pick up the basics and go home.

“That’s a role that our Giant can play for shoppers in this community, but ideally at a higher level of quality,” he said.

Cathy Jett: (540) 374-5407
Email: cjett@freelancestar.com
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Published: October 23, 2009

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