For two years, Save-A-Lot filled a critical need in Binghampton since its residents had been traveling three or more miles away to do their grocery shopping. (Courtesy photo)

Save-A-Lot grocery store, 516 Tillman St., closed its doors permanently on Tuesday, June 30, after just two years of serving the Binghampton community.

With closures both locally and nationwide, Save-A-Lot is restructuring to save the company.

Save-A-Lot filled a critical need in Binghampton since its residents had been traveling three or more miles to do their grocery shopping.

Once again, the community is a “food desert” – an urban area where buying fresh or affordable, good-quality food is difficult due to no nearby grocery stores.

Binghampton – a largely African-American community – had long been without a grocery store until two years ago when the Binghampton Development Corporation (BDC) closed a deal with Save-A-Lot.

The supermaket became the anchor of the new Binghampton Gateway Center (owned by the BDC) at Tillman St. and Sam Cooper Blvd.

“My boyfriend lives in Binghampton and shops at this store all the time,” said Waltrell Branch, co-owner of Abundance of Love Enrichment Center in Whitehaven.

“I started shopping here because of him. He gets good deals on things like frying oil, breads, meats and kitchen supplies.”

When Branch spoke with The New Tri-State Defender at the Save-A-Lot, she had not yet heard the store was closing, but hopes a replacement store will still be affordable.

“This area needs an affordable grocery store and the people need a say in the decision.”

Noah Gray (Courtesy photo)

Noah Gray, BDC executive director, says a replacement grocery store will come within the next few months.

“We’re looking at six different stores to replace Save-A-Lot,” says Gray, who not disclose the supermarket brands in negotiations, but says the space –16,200 square feet – is a factor in the selection.

According to a BDC news release, the agency approved a study by a national wholesale grocer revealing that Save-A-Lot did not tap into the full market potential of the Binghampton location.

Along with finding a new grocery store, the BDC staff and board are working to add more businesses to the Binghampton Gateway Center, like a much needed pharmacy.

For years, Binghampton supporters and residents have strived to overcome blight, poverty, crime and population loss after the demise of urban manufacturing jobs from 1970 to 2000.

Since 2011, the area has grown through new, affordable housing starts due in part to the Broad Avenue Arts District, Community L.I.F.T. (a neighborhood revitalization group connecting projects with funding sources) and former Memphis Mayor A C Wharton’s Innovation Delivery Team, which pursued a Bloomberg Philanthropies revitalization model.

In 2019, Mayor Jim Strickland used the Community Catalyst Fund to demolish the Tillman Cove Apartments and erect new, affordable housing as part of the Memphis 3.0 revitalization plan.

Now, many outsiders view Binghampton more positively.

Point2 – an online real estate marketplace at www.point2homes.comshows Binghampton currently holds 17,082 residents, a median income of around $32,000 per year, a median age of 34 and 664 newcomers from a different state.

The BDC – which began in 2003 – shows earlier demographics on its website: 8,000 residents, a median income of $26,000 (with 48 percent under $20,000) and 23 percent of the population at age 55 or older.

Some older Binghampton residents do not own cars and rely upon public transportation, making a trip (by bus) to a grocery store outside the community both time-consuming and difficult.

Employees at the Tillman Save-A-Lot were given short notice of the store closure, but several will transfer to eight remaining store locations across Memphis.

Sarah Griffin, Save-A-Lot communications director, provided the following statement.

“We take the decision to close any Save A Lot location very seriously. We regularly review our stores on a number of factors, including financial performance as well as strategic alignment with long-term plans.

“Unfortunately, as a result of this review, we will be closing our store in the Binghampton shopping center on June 30. We are grateful to our customers for their loyal support in this location. Our team members, some of whom will transfer, look forward to continuing to serve customers at one of our 8 remaining stores in the Memphis area.”

(To learn more about the Binghampton Development Corporation and plans for the Binghampton Gateway Center, visit: https://www.bdcmemphis.org.)