By Alex Arey
UNC Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE
“I like it. I love it. I live it,” said Stacey Hanson.
Hanson, a Save-A-Lot employee, born and raised in Durham, knows most of the people coming in. For her, it’s a community grocery store. A familiar face always emerges from Save-A-Lot’s automatic sliding doors, she said.
Save-A-Lot opened on Sept. 27 and is located at 812 Liberty St.
According to Save-A-Lot News on the Save-A-Lot website, Kevin Dick, City of Durham Economic and Workforce development director, said they have been working with the community and partners for decades to create more retail shopping opportunities in the neighborhood. According to their website, he added that the benefits “extend beyond the immediate neighborhood,” and will result in “many contracting and job opportunities” for members of the community as a result of Save-A-Lot’s “willingness to be a strong community partner.”
Falisha Pegram, another Save-A-Lot employee, humorously offered this insightful tagline, “You save a lot at Save-A-Lot.” The employees chuckled among one another.
“That should go in the theme song,” one said.
Then, by popular demand, Pegram sang the Save-A-Lot commercial theme song and everyone burst into hysterics.
There’s undeniable camaraderie among employees and the community rapport between employees and customers is palpable. Their warm genuine interaction reflects that they clearly want to be there because they understand the positive impact Save-A-Lot will have in the community.
The consensus of opinion among Save-A-Lot shoppers is that it’s convenient and nearby, as well as not exclusively Spanish speaking, like other grocery stores in the surrounding area.
Ashlyn Harper, a Save-A-Lot employee, noted that it’s right there where everyone lives. “I won’t have to travel far,” when coming to work or going shopping, she said.
Harper said when busy working people need food for their families, it’s good for them to know they won’t have to waste any more time making the long haul to Wal-Mart or Food Lion.
Pegram also mentioned that the grocery store is well situated for the elderly.
Harper, a Hampton, Va. native was looking forward to the grocery store chain being brought to Durham since they had it in Va. “I grew up on Save-A-Lot and got excited,” she said.
Harper said they get a lot of regulars. Some of the same people come every day. “They just want to save,” she said.
Big families frequent Save-A-Lot, as well. According to Harper, a family of nine spent 45 minutes checking out and left the store with $900 worth of groceries.
Harper, with a radiant grin, said, “We also have the best customer service – 100% satisfaction guaranteed.” Thus far, they have had pleased customers and have yet to have anyone request their money back.
“Good quality for cheap prices.” The employees were quick to endorse the quality of the goods “Nice produce,” Pegram said. “Fresh. Very fresh,” Harper beamed.
Pegram said they’re busiest on Mondays, because it’s “food stamp day” and people get their paychecks and government checks, and at nights, when people get out of work and out of school.
Many of the residents near the grocery store had heard of its construction and were anxiously awaiting its opening. Charlie Perry, an elderly and intrigued first time shopper, said, “It’s real nice. Gotta see what’s goin’ on.”
Each customer that strolls through the automatic doors with their shopping cart they rented for 25 cents is greeted with a warm friendly welcome. “They always greet with a smile,” elderly shopper Reginald Pierce said.
For Pierce, it was the third time making purchases at Save-A-Lot. He says he had been delighted with their services in his previous visits. Looking up from his mobility scooter, he said what sets this place apart from the rest is that it’s, “cheaper than the Dollar Tree and [its well-suited location makes it] convenient for the disabled.” He also noted that, “They’re quick with the register.” It’s an in-and-out experience at Save-a-Lot – none of that “waiting in line nonsense,” he said.
A young boy of about eight or nine years old stood at the register purchasing a box of candy. Upon hearing the total amount of the candy, the downtrodden boy slowly looked at the ground, heavy with embarrassment, and confessed he did not have enough money to pay for the candy. Without hesitation Hanson assured the boy she would make up for the loss and let him have the candy – an act of compassion you probably wouldn’t witness at a big box grocery store.