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market_120Ever since the Egans' Lansing Shurfine closed in 1995 people who live in the Town of Lansing have missed having their own grocery store.  Most remember it fondly as a neighborhood supermarket that was convenient, especially if you were in the middle of cooking something and realized you were out of sugar, or flour, or some vital ingredient.  With all the recent talk about a Lansing Town Center, some have dared to hope the Town will have its own market again.  Thanks to a group of local investors, it will come sooner than the town center itself, possibly as soon as next May.

"Since we've let it out that we're doing this we've had a number of people come to us and say they are very enthusiastic about it," says Andy Sciarabba, who's group will build and operate a supermarket on North Triphammer Road near the Crossroads Restaurant and the Lansing Xtramart.  "If you look at where we are compared to other grocery opportunities, we're about five miles away from Tops.  People from the north have to travel farther."

grocery_andyAndy Sciarabba (standing) at Monday's Lansing Planning Board Meeting

Sciarabba has been trying to attract a grocery store to Lansing for five years, but he was turned down by all the major chains.  Aldis told him the community is too wealthy to match their target market, others said the traffic wasn't high enough, and still others said they couldn't find a reason to locate in the Town of Lansing.  Finally he decided to take a leap of faith and invest in an independent supermarket himself.

"We did it for the RINK," he said.  "We can do it for this."

Sciarabba corralled nine investors including himself and the incoming manager.  The others are Lansing residents or relatives of Lansing people.  Being an investor was a requirement of the manager's job to insure that the individual would have a vested interest in making the market succeed.  All together he will manage about 27 employees, including seven full time workers.  He has some affiliation with Lansing from many years ago, and is currently running the meat department at a Syracuse supermarket that is part of a major grocery chain. 

"He is very experienced in the business," Sciarabba  says.  "He is a mature individual.  We'll have him as the primary manager, and have an assistant manager under him, and department managers after that.  He is very cleanliness and customer service oriented.  That's the key thing."

At the moment the entire price tag comes to about $3.2 million, including the building itself, equipment, and inventory.  Sciarabba says that number changes every day, as prices and specifications change.  The biggest part is equipment and inventory.  Much of the inventory will come from a Associated Wholesalers, Inc. (AWI), which is a cooperative of small independent markets such as Suresave and Surefine stores.  Local produce will also be featured.

grocery_clearingdirtThe site, at the northernmost tip of Triphammer Road, is cleared and leveled to prepare for construction

The group is confident that they will meet sales projections, siting an AWI market study that showed the amount of money spent by people within three to five miles of the site, and predicted the new grocery store will capture 22% of that market, as well as a higher percent of people further out.  He is targeting a May opening to give the store a boost in the tourist season.  Sciarabba says that the group's projections show a very small profit in the first year, but with negative cash flow.

In order to help put the market on a solid financial footing his group is asking the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) for a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) agreement, at least during the critical first years of operation.  PILOT agreements do not exempt businesses from paying property taxes, but set property values for a period of time to allow businesses to plan their finances with more stability.

While ventures such as this supermarket are new territory for PILOT agreements in Tompkins County, Sciarabba says that Tompkins County Area Development President Michael Stamm has been encouraging, and notes that another grocery store opening at the location of the former 3rd Street P&C is also applying for a PILOT.

"That's why we need to have the PILOT program from the County," he says.  "Now we're looking at projects at the IDA level, which have a major impact on the community where there's no competition.  So grocery stores make sense."

The group is also trying to leverage the supermarket's success by opening in May to take advantage of tourists, campers, and summer visitors, on top of the high traffic that has been attracted to the Peruville/Triphammer Roads corner with the opening of Crossroads Restaurant and the revamped Xtramart.  To that end, Sciarabba was at last Monday's Planning Board meeting to do what he can to get a building permit by December 1st.  Being able to break ground by that date is critical, he contends.

"We want to get the footers in the ground before the frost comes in.  This way we can work on the building in the winter time," he says.  "For us to open in September is not as good as opening in May.  In May you've got the summer months with campers and everybody else.  It gives us a good shot of business n the summer months."


The grocery store will measure 14,000 square feet, with 12,000 devoted to the retail space and the remaining 2,000 used for deliveries, food preparation rooms, and storage.  Sciarabba estimates that it has about 35% the space that the Lansing Tops has.  Parking lots on two sides will have spaces for 73 cars, and the entrance to the store will be at the corner between the two lots.  Customers will enter from Triphammer Road, while another driveway will facilitate delivery trucks entering on Town Barn Road.

The store will be a full service store that includes a deli, a bakery, a meat department, and a produce area.  It will also will offer prepared take-home meals.  A changeable sign is planned for the entrance to the store that Sciarabba says will be used to promote community and school events.

While Planning Board members raised questions about details, including traffic flow issues, and a request from Lansing Recreational Pathways Committee member Roger Hopkins to plan for safe pedestrian and non-motorized transportation access to the store, they seemed excited about the project as a whole, even scheduling a required public hearing during what would have been a 'work session' meeting to try to help meet Sciarabba's December 1st target.  That hearing is scheduled for October 25th at 7:20 pm in the Town Hall.  Meanwhile Sciarabba said he would work his way down the list of things that must be done in order to qualify for the building permit.

"I think this is the most exciting thing to come to town in a long, long time," said Planning Board chairman Lin Davidson.

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