Food Universe IGA closed January 1st at the intersection of Briarcliff and Clairmont Roads in Briarcliff Shopping Center. The center opened in 1960 with Big Apple, then Food Giant, Piggly Wiggly, SuperValu , Ed's IGA and finally Food Universe IGA. (Back in the 60s there were far fewer shopping centers, so I guess they were far less creative with naming them)
The IGA store was rumored to be closing but when I stopped by December 30th, it seemed like business as usual with no signage indicating an imminent closure. I stopped by again this past Monday the 2nd and the store was already closed and over 90% of the store's inventory was gone. Not sure when it all happened as there was no sale or anything, just kinda closed and gone. Rumor has it the store will re-open in nearby Williamsburg Village shopping center but I highly doubt that would work.
I have lived in the neighborhood near this shopping center my entire life but had not been in the grocery store since the Ed's days years ago. Back when it was a SuperValu, I recall making regular trips there with my family, but the store's overall appearance and food quality seemed to have deteriorated substantially over the years, so I, like many of my neighbors, do most grocery shopping at the nearby Publix and Kroger at Toco Hills and Toco Hill respectively.
I'd heard that a Family Dollar had looked at the center for a new store last year but had decided the demographics did not support their concept. Interestingly, not far away, another former SuperValu (and later Ed's IGA and Village Market) at Vista Grove shopping center gave way to a variety of businesses including a package store and Napoleon's, a restaurant. In the same center, Village Market built a gas station in the shopping center's parking lot that currently sits empty. Within the same center, Eckerd gave way to RiteAid which in turn closed and is now a Dollar General.
Both the Briarcliff and Vista Grove centers have been proposed by residents as prospective locations for Trader Joe's, but nothing has materialized. Personally, I love my 'hood, but if TJ's won't open in Suburban Plaza, there is no way they would ever open in either center, even if there was room, which now there won't be.
Now, with IGA closed, Tulsa, Oklahoma-based QuikTrip plans to open a new convenience store and gas station on the land in place of the IGA store, adjacent parking lot and a small, undeveloped parcel behind the center. It's my understanding that the IGA portion of the aging shopping center will be demolished and that the other businesses like the pharmacy and dry cleaners will remain open. I would love to see the entire center get a facelift, but I'm told that is not a sure thing at this point.
QuikTrip, unlike its chief rival Atlanta-based RaceTrac, has a number of existing intown locations. Less than a mile and a half from the location at Clairmont and Briarcliff, QuikTrip operates a unit at Briarcliff and North Druid Hills Roads. QuikTrip also has a location further down Briarcliff, near Clifton Road. Overall, Atlanta is QT's largest market, with over 120 locations. RaceTrac, in comparison, has just shy of 70 in the area. QT entered the market 25 years ago, whereas RaceTrac had a 50 year head start.
In 2010 QuikTrip launched what it calls "Gen III" stores which are about 1000-square feet larger than typical locations. (5700 s/f compared to a typical 4600 s/f.) If I counted accurately, the coming Doraville location will have 20 pumps, about twice that of typical intown locations. The Doraville location is located just inside the perimeter at Buford Highway and Stewart Road on the site most recently home to a Shell gas station.
In addition to an increased number of pumps at high traffic locations, Gen III stores also carry a wider variety of prepared foods and have a slightly different interior layout, dual side entrances and seating outside in front of the store. Smoothies, soft serve ice cream and specialty coffee beverages are also likely to be found in Gen III locations. Take & Bake pizzas and single-size lasagna were also recently added to the food offerings. I'd also heard of up to 16 different teas and 10 variations of frozen beverages being offered at new locations. Much, if not all, of the prepared foods are made at QT's ever-expanding Ellenwood QT Kitchen commissary.
The first three Gen III locations opened in the company's home territory of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and after proving successful, were expanded to other markets. Atlanta will soon have a number of these locations with one scheduled to open next month in Morrow on Jonesboro Road. The aforementioned location in Doraville, as well as another location in Suwanee at Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road and Satellite Boulevard, are both scheduled to open in March. Henry County will also get a Gen III location later this year in Locust Grove, but as it was only announced last week, I'm not sure when it may open.
Another location was proposed at Ormewood and Moreland Avenues in Ormewood Park, but after fierce opposition from the neighborhood, QT will not build on that site though they have stated they are still interested in the area.
As the Briarcliff Shopping Center is already zoned for C-1 commercial, I'm told no community meetings were held and therefore it was a bit difficult to track down details of their plans. Calls to various real estate and public relations officials at QuikTrip were not immediately returned but I hope to have an opening timetable soon. I'd anticipate this location will be a Gen III but likely not as big as the upcoming Doraville location.
As a lifelong resident of this exact neighborhood, I personally welcome the QuikTrip and see it being successful, but possibly not popular with all. Presumably, the station will have access from both Briarciff and Clairmont, making access in and out easy.
The shopping center is well situated in a high traffic area. Interstate 85 is less than a half mile away with many commuters making their way to the nearby CDC, VA and Emory campuses. In addition, students and parents of Cliff Valley School, Sagamore Elementary and Lakeside High Schools pass through this intersection as well.
Across the street from the planned QuikTrip, there is an existing Chevron that just re-opened last month after being closed since early August. In the early morning hours of August 4th, two cars were involved in a collision that forced one vehicle to careen off the side of the road and into a gas pump at the Chevron. Both vehicle and pump burst into flames and it took months to sort everything out. Additionally, there is a Shell gas station closer to I-85 and a BP on the other side of I-85. A couple of years ago, the Sam's Club (on the site of former Kmart) added gas pumps to their store as well.
Having attended the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) convention in 2009, I witnessed first hand C-store operators and vendors extended moves into the food industry. Already in competition with other convenience stores, adding so many food and beverage offerings puts them in competition with both fast food eateries and coffee houses like Starbucks. Given QT's sterling reputation for clean stores and courteous sales associates, similar to that of Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A, the company seems destined to continue to grow and prosper in Atlanta and beyond.
Do you live in the neighborhood and feel the QT is a good idea, or are you just another NIMBY type person? Did you patronize the grocery store from national chain to IGA and already miss it? Does this new QT concept store sound like too much or is it just keeping up with the times? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.