Archive for Wednesday, May 24, 2000

Grocery store withdraws its FireTree plans

May 24, 2000

There won't be two grocery stores in the FireTree Estates development after all.

O'Bryhim's Thriftway will not be a part of the FireTree Plaza project, which is being built by local contractor Ken Hayes. Hayes confirmed that Cliff O'Bryhim had decided not to locate in 18,000 square feet of the plaza.

"He bailed out the first part of May," said Hayes. "We went back into a redraw."

Hayes said he still plans on building 15,000 square feet of retail space in the location just north of U.S. Highway 56. It's basically what he had planned from the start, minus the grocery store "anchor." He's still looking at two other possible anchors.

"Neither one of the two have moved off the dime," said Hayes.

He said ground will be broke on the project in 30 to 45 days, depending on approval of the new plans. There's no rush since there won't be competing grocery stores.

"Obviously since we're not racing the grocery store anymore, there's no big hurry," he said. "We're looking at filling up with more than what we've got. We are looking for businesses that are interested in locating out on the highway."

Just after the announcement that O'Bryhim's was coming into FireTree, Baldwin City Market owners Jeff and Lisa Simpson announced they'd be breaking ground on their store in the development, too. Those plans have not yet been approved by the planning commission.

O'Bryhim said the reason he decided not to locate at FireTree are "complicated."

"We couldn't make the numbers work," said O'Bryhim, who has a grocery store in Overbrook. "It is a complicated process to put a store in of that size. It costs a lot of money and a grocery store has a low profit margin. We couldn't make it work."

He said the outcome could have been different had the process to build the new store started six months ago.

"We needed more time to negotiate, instead of hurrying to put in a store before the competition," O'Bryhim said. "If we could have started six months ago, or 10 months ago, it might have been different. It is very much a disappointment. Baldwin needs a grocery store. I would prefer it to be me.

"As neat as Baldwin is and as fast as Baldwin is growing, it cannot handle two grocery stores," he said. "It definitely was not Ken's fault. They bent over backwards. We're a member of the Associated Wholesale Grocers which is in a labor dispute, but that wasn't a factor."

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