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Inside Bulloch Business with DeWayne Grice - The history of Statesboro's grocery store rumors
Grice-H-DeWayne Web

Last summer, we were all thrilled with the announcement that two more grocery stores were entering the Statesboro market.

One made it but the other one faded into yet another grocery store "near miss" story. The Hutton Company followed through on their promise of building the Walmart Neighborhood Market, which has proven to be a very popular addition.

The second one was proposed by Armstrong Development, involving a planned investment of more than $28 million on land owned by the Bland family behind Franklin Chevrolet. This project required a new intersection on Veterans Memorial Parkway between Northside Drive East and Jones Mill Road. The proposed development included 25 acres. The main shopping center would have provided 130,000 square feet of retail space and featured Publix as one of its anchor businesses. City engineers quickly worked up the request and began the process of working with Georgia DOT on new intersection. Publix pulled out of the project much to everyone's dismay.

A third near miss occurred early this year at the intersection of North Main and Northside Drive across from Enmark. A developer had contracts to purchase the property, which included an entire city block. Out of the 12 pieces of property, one property owner held up the deal when they could not come to terms with the developer on a sale price. It is believed that this would have housed a second Walmart Neighborhood Market.

Last week, the contract ended on a fourth and, by far, the one property known for the most near misses at the intersection of Highway 301 South and the bypass owned by local developer and realtor Robert Tanner. Since purchasing the land 15 years ago, Tanner has had five near misses on this prime piece of real estate.

"When I purchased the land there was no water or sewer," he said. "I first shopped it heavily to the developers of the hospital (East Georgia Regional Medical Center) who were looking for a site to build. After the utilities arrived, the land become much more marketable."

The first contract on the land was in 2004 by a Walmart developer. They had tied up Tanner's 14 acres and the adjoining 40 acres from the family of the late Dr. Albert Deal. The plan was to build a Walmart Super Center there and abandon the current location. Weeks before the deal closed in 2005, Katrina slammed into the gulf coast destroying multiple Walmart's.

They shifted their focus on rebuilding thus causing the deal to die. The Forum developers purchased the 40-acre track and opened in 2012.

The second contract was in 2010 to a Bi-Lo developer to build a Super Bi-Lo. Three weeks before closing, Bi-Lo purchased the Winn Dixie chain and the sale died.

The third contract was to a Kroger developer. Six weeks before closing Kroger, purchased Harris Teeter in 2013 and yet again we missed out.

The fourth contract was to a second Publix developer last year. Two different developers tied up the Bland site and the Tanner site and shopped them to the grocery store chain. When Publix decided not to re-enter the Statesboro Market both deals fell apart. It is believed that Statesboro was the first store Publix actually closed. Because of this, their leadership has struggled with the decision to re-enter the market.

The contract on the fifth deal died last week. This was a local developer who had plans to develop the site for a national brand big box retail store and retail center.

This confirms that interest is high for more grocery stores and national retail chains to enter the market. As Tanner has experienced however, nothing is certain until the doors are open.



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