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Wegmans to Close Chase-Pitkin Stores
Elmira Star Gazette ^ | 10/5/2005 | G. Jeffrey Aaron

Posted on 10/18/2005 6:05:12 PM PDT by Dan Nunn

Chase-Pitkin Home and Garden Centers, no longer able to successfully compete with the giant Lowe's and Home Depot chains, is going out of business, starting with the store on Chambers Road and another near Syracuse.

Those two stores will close by the end of March, Chase-Pitkin's parent company, the Rochester-based Wegmans Food Markets Inc., announced Tuesday.

Two remaining Syracuse stores and 10 others in the Rochester area also will close, but a timetable for those moves hasn't been established, said Jo Natale, media relations director for Wegmans.

While 122 jobs will be lost when the Big Flats store closes, local leaders are not worried about the impact the store's closing will have on the retail landscape of Big Flats or the area's economy.

"We are upset anytime a large store closes," said Big Flats Town Supervisor Mary Ann Balland, "but it's a prime location that should be filled quickly. I wouldn't be surprised if we (found a new tenant) this week."

Chase-Pitkin President William Strassburg said the decision to close the stores was made about a week ago, although discussions had been ongoing. The Big Flats store was doing very well, he said, but the competition for the chain was too great.

"In the past three years, we've had new competitors, and each took a share of the pie," Strassburg said. "We have a lot of great people, and because of them we've been able to sustain the business and fight off the competition.

"Three years ago, there was a total of two Home Depot stores in Syracuse. Now there are four Home Depots and three Lowe's, and more Lowe's are planned. Rochester has a total of seven Home Depots and four Lowe's, with another one planned," he said.

In the Twin Tiers, a Lowe's opened in Consumer Square in the late 1990s and a Home Depot opened in Erwin in 2002. A Lowe's is now planned for Athens Township.

Neither Home Depot nor Lowe's returned phone calls seeking comment.

Wegmans, which has 69 grocery stores in five states, does more than $3 billion in annual sales, said Chairman Robert B. Wegman.

Chase-Pitkin had sales of $200 million last year, according to Wegmans and industry publication Home Channel News. That was higher than the $180 million the magazine reported for the chain for 1996 but below the $225 million it cited for 2000.

Chase-Pitkin employs 1,660 part-time and 507 full-time workers at its 14 stores, including 34 full-time and 88 part-time employees at the 9-year-old Big Flats location.

Employees will be offered positions at Wegmans stores, Natale said. But if they decide to leave the company, they will be given severance packages, she said. She would not disclose details of those packages.

"We have thoroughly analyzed our position in the home improvement business and have come to one conclusion," Wegman said in a prepared statement. "The industry is dominated by a small number of very large national players with thousands of stores, and Chase-Pitkin is simply not big enough to compete successfully and grow the business.

"This difficult decision will enable us to devote our resources and energy to the expansion of the food business, where we have been extremely successful. Focusing on the growth of our primary business is the best way to ensure the long-term success of our company and our people."

Wegmans opened its first home repair center on Rochester's Lyell Avenue in 1973. A second store opened in suburban Pittsford that same year. In 1974, Wegmans acquired Bilt-Rite Chase-Pitkin and added more stores, retaining the Chase-Pitkin name.

The opening of the Big Flats store in 1996 received mixed reviews from the existing hardware store owners who had to compete against the retailer. Some thought the store was the beginning of the end for the small independent hardware stores. Others thought their stores could peacefully co-exist with the big-box retailers.

In 1997, two Chase-Pitkin stores in Buffalo closed following Home Depot's entry into that market. That same year, Wegmans tried a new concept, a Rochester store called Hardware Plus - smaller and with limited offerings - but that store closed last year.

The Big Flats store has 79,000 square feet of retail space, plus about 30,000 square feet of warehouse and storage area on a seven-acre parcel, said David Lubin, managing partner of L Enterprises.

The Big Flats developer, who owns the land on which Chase-Pitkin stands, said he could see the local home improvement market become crowded.

"The national companies have dominated," he said. "The smaller guys have found a niche and still work with the local businesses and home builders and have been able to find a good spot in the marketplace to keep them going."

Lubin said the Chase-Pitkin building and its prime location should attract another retailer.

"It's an opportunity for someone else to come in and be successful," he said.

Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli said he had heard rumors of Chase-Pitkin's closing for about 18 months.

"It's a business decision that they've made, but with the retail expansion planned for the county over the next 12 months, there will be plenty of opportunities for people to get other jobs in the retail sector," he said.

Santulli said Chase-Pitkin's closing should not be taken as a sign that the area's home building and improvement activity is slowing.

"There are just too many players, and the competition got tough," he said. "The closing is a market adjustment, and Chemung County becomes more attractive because there is now one less player."

He also said the Chase-Pitkin decision will have a minimal impact on the county's sales tax receipts because customers will simply frequent other stores after the closing.

Eugene H. Fram, a marketing professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, said Chase-Pitkin "gave it a good chance to succeed, a good college try.

"The fact that they lasted this long gave an indication to me that maybe they were making it. ... But evidently the base just wasn't there."

TOPICS: Business/Economy; News/Current Events; US: New York; US: Pennsylvania
KEYWORDS: chasepitkins; northeast; retail; wegmans
This is from about two weeks back, but I didn't see anything about it. The parent of Chase-Pitkin, Wegmans, I'm sure is very familiar to many people in upstate NY and PA. It's quite a remarkable supermarket. It's also part of a dying breed, a large business headquartered in New York!

I've never personally been to a Chase-Pitkin store, but I've seen several, and this is indeed a loss. With the competition in today's market with Home Depot, Lowe's, and even discount retailers like Wal-Mart, it probably wasn't economically feasible to continue pumping money into the branch.

1 posted on 10/18/2005 6:05:15 PM PDT by Dan Nunn
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To: Dan Nunn
Thanks for the post. Wegmans is indeed a superior market. I've been to the one in Corning.
Sad story, though.
2 posted on 10/18/2005 6:38:59 PM PDT by melt (O'liver' Stoned is yellow...)
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To: Dan Nunn
I've never personally been to a Chase-Pitkin store, but I've seen several, and this is indeed a loss.

I live in Roch - the stores are notorious for crappy service and sales staff that disappears the minute you ask the difference between thinset and portland

I get swarmed at Home Depot -

the closures are IMO a result of that

3 posted on 10/18/2005 6:40:28 PM PDT by Revelation 911
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To: Revelation 911
My best friend used to be a carpenter apprentice. He always sneered at Chase-Pitkin, always choosing Home Depot instead.

It sort of rubbed off onto me.

4 posted on 10/18/2005 6:45:30 PM PDT by jude24 ("Stupid" isn't illegal - but it should be.)
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To: Revelation 911

Like I said, I haven't been to a Chase Pitkin. As far as Home Depot, I can't for the life of me figure out why they have checkout isles 1-12 when they only use one of them!

Kidding aside, I do usually go to Home Depot for the heavy duty project stuff. I don't usually get that far into a project though, so Wal-Mart usually suffices!

5 posted on 10/18/2005 6:50:39 PM PDT by Dan Nunn
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To: Dan Nunn

Wegmans is indeed a supurb supermarket. I liked Chase-Pitkin for some things, mostly because it was convenient being next to Toys R Us. Too bad for the workers, but Wegmans has been rated in the past as one of the best companies to work for. They'll do ok.

6 posted on 10/18/2005 7:03:49 PM PDT by takbodan (.)
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To: Revelation 911
I bet you will understand this, then:

A friend of mine who is in a construction type trade once made the remark to me that "apparently wearing yellow makes your IQ drop ten points."

To which I replied "yeah, and wearing orange makes you annoying."

7 posted on 10/18/2005 7:12:31 PM PDT by Nik Naym
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To: Dan Nunn

Wegmans, Americas number one super market.

8 posted on 10/18/2005 7:14:37 PM PDT by cynicom
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To: takbodan; cynicom

I couldn't agree more! Now, if they could take their idea nationwide, they'd provide great competition to the likes of some of the more liberal-friendly supermarket chains. That would, however, go against their business model as they don't currently pay $30/hour and $40,000/yr to grocery baggers like stores in California does.

Although a quick search at shows that two top Wegmans officials (including the founder) donated $2,000 to President Bush in 2004.

9 posted on 10/18/2005 7:23:34 PM PDT by Dan Nunn
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To: Dan Nunn

Wegmans has moved as far south as VA and moving into NC soon.

10 posted on 10/18/2005 7:28:56 PM PDT by cynicom
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To: Dan Nunn
Wegmans donations are legendary. One of the Wegman's was well known for his multi million dollar donation (He did this ANNUALY!) to one of the local Catholic schools. They came to rely on it. Then one year, after they pulled some kind of leftist in your face kind of socialist anti Christian bone head move (danged if I remember what it was..LOL) he decided not to give them the several million bucks. They blew a gasket, cried to the media, whined how they relied on it, etc. I think he held fast and didn't give them the cash. Much to his credit, IMHO.

Anyway, for those not from around here, Wegmans Markets are consistently rated as one of the best companies in the entire US to work for, and are always rated number 1 in grocery stores. Anyone I know that works for them has never said a bad word about them. All I ever hear from them is how well they are treated. Non union too. The unions have tried getting in in the past, only to be told to take a flying leap by the employees.

For the record, they are a private business. Basically a family business. A HUGE family business, but still not a public company. So when you hear about sales, profits, margins, and so forth, they are just estimates and speculation.

11 posted on 10/18/2005 7:42:00 PM PDT by Nik Naym
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To: Dan Nunn
I've never personally been to a Chase-Pitkin store...

I have, but not for years. Honestly, I'm surprised there were still any left. They were nice enough I guess, but it's kind of hard to position yourself as a somewhat upscale plywood dealer, the way Danny's done with the supermarkets.

12 posted on 10/18/2005 7:45:55 PM PDT by Senator Bedfellow
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To: Dan Nunn

We live in CNY and are really disappointed to see Chase-Pitkin closing. They did a much better job than Home Depot. HD's service has been pathetic lately. We'll be switching to Lowe's. NYS is shooting itself in the foot with its ridiculous regulations for businesses. My husband used to own one and after he closed it, swore that he would NEVER own a business in NYS ever again. Wegman's is doing great, though, and expanding down into the DC area, where I hear they are doing well.

13 posted on 10/18/2005 7:51:05 PM PDT by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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To: Nik Naym
That's pretty interesting, thanks for the post!

Although with all the industries that are out there (or at least Fortune polls), I find it hard that any grocer would be rated as #1 employer to work for. But if it's the case, more power to them!

It's too bad they couldn't do something with this real estate that they leased or owned for Chase Pitkin stores. I think there would be room for another wholesale store in the old Chase-Pitkin market (NY/PA mostly), something like a more upscale Sam's Club. Costco (fortunately) isn't really in this area of the country.

But then again, they know more than I do, so who knows. Like you said, they're a private company, so I have no say in what they do. Just keep doing what you're doing so well, Wegmans!

14 posted on 10/18/2005 8:17:21 PM PDT by Dan Nunn
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To: metmom
It's sad news indeed. Your husband is absolutely right! Owning a business in NYS is torture, and I can only imagine the headache of owning a really, really large business in NY. Isn't IBM still "technically" located in New York? Technically, because 90% of their workers are in India, I'm sure.

Regardless, it won't be getting any better once Death to Business Spitzer gets elected next year.

Oh well. Good to know they're moving to DC, and as cynicom mentioned, into NC even!

Visiting Ohio long term over the summer, I made my first venture into an outfit that calls itself "Cub Foods." After visiting Wegmans for so long, I distinctly remember going through checkout at Cub Foods and staring at my items on the conveyor belt, waiting for them to bag themselves. Didn't take me long to remember how much I missed Wegmans.

15 posted on 10/18/2005 8:24:35 PM PDT by Dan Nunn
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To: Dan Nunn

My s-i-l just moved down south last year. Aside from family, Wegmans is what they miss the most. One time I saw a guy looking at the deli case, trying to make up his mind on lunch meat. I don't remember how we got talking but he did say that you didn't see anything like that in TX where he was from. That was some years ago so I don't know if anything has changed.

16 posted on 10/18/2005 8:45:32 PM PDT by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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To: takbodan
Wegmans has been rated in the past as one of the best companies to work for.

top 100 actually - you realize they buy that honor

great stores - dont get me wrong - but youll pay for the privledge of shopping there

Have a pal who worked in corporate, typical salary nonsense where you are paid a weekly salary and expected to work sat and sun as well - if you dont, you get passed over - same for participation in the United way campaign

.....and that doesnt even begin to address the practice of staffing the register leader position with gum snappin eye candy while some refugee from kodaks slashes mans the register

17 posted on 10/19/2005 2:41:13 AM PDT by Revelation 911
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