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July 10, 2008

Supermarket coming to Forbes Ave.

After more than a decade without a grocery store, Market on Forbes is set to open later this summer in Oakland.

The IGA-affiliated supermarket is under construction in 4,000 square feet of retail space on the second floor of the Strand Building at 3609 Forbes Ave. The building, which formerly housed Club Laga and the Upstage nightclub, now contains a mixture of apartments and offices in addition to street-level storefronts that house Supercuts, the CD Warehouse and the Golden Palace Chinese buffet restaurant.

“There’s been a big void in Oakland,” said building owner Ron Levick, who will operate the IGA store. South Oakland’s last supermarket, a Giant Eagle on Forbes Avenue, closed in 1997.

Levick plans to hire 15-20 students as part-time employees and is aiming for an Aug. 15 opening if all goes smoothly. For now, shelves and coolers await installation as renovations continue.

Levick said the store will cater mainly to area students. He notes that in his building alone there are 60 undergraduates who typically must travel by bus to Squirrel Hill to grocery shop. In addition to serving the residents of South Oakland, Levick said workers who park in Oakland also may find it more convenient to pop into the store for bread or milk on their way back to their cars, rather than stop elsewhere on their way home.

Initially the store will not stock fresh meat or fish, opting instead for frozen choices. Citing the preferences of his mainly student clientele, Levick said, “They’re not going to want a pound of ground beef, they’ll want two [frozen] burgers already made.”

He plans to cater to the lunch and dinner crowds with fresh produce, deli items and prepared foods such as sandwiches, salads, wraps and rotisserie chicken.

Levick also said he’s opted not to carry a wide range of health and beauty items that can easily be obtained nearby at CVS or Rite Aid. Basics such as soap, shampoo and paper products will be on his shelves, but not a lot of other overlapping stock.

“I’m going to be offering something that does not exist,” he said.

Levick said he expects customers will adjust their shopping schedule to conform to the Market on Forbes’s shorter operating hours. He is contemplating business hours of 11 a.m.-7 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. or noon-4 p.m. on weekends, though he plans to extend hours on Pitt football game days or other special event days.

The store’s second-floor location and lack of a parking lot means shoppers likely will make more frequent visits rather than doing a week’s worth of shopping in one trip. Carts will be available inside the store, but patrons will need to carry their groceries to the street level.

Levick said his store can succeed where other Oakland supermarkets have failed, in part because he owns the building and plans to operate the store himself.

“I’ll figure out how to make it work,” he said.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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