SANBORN – If small, family-owned grocery stores are going the way of the dinosaurs, then Sanborn Marketplace could be the next extinct member of a dwindling species.
Store owner Frank Lignos said that for the past year and a half, he’s done everything he could to try to change what appears to be the writing on the wall, but has been unsuccessful in extending the lease on the property, which is in the plaza at 2956 Saunders Settlement Road at the corner of Townline Road/Route 429 owned by Benderson Development.
Benderson Development plans to change tenants when the lease ends, said Lignos, bringing in a Tops Market, which will take over the 6,000 square-foot market and enlarge the store to 12,000 square feet by expanding into vacant stores in the plaza.
In a statement, Frank Curci, president, chairman and CEO of Tops Markets, said they had not reached an agreement on the Sanborn property, but were aware that the landlord had an aggressive plan to renovate the property, calling it a “very positive situation for that community” if they are successful.
Lignos said his 14 employees and some of his customers had petitioned in the store and online to try to persuade the Town of Cambria and Benderson Development to offer him a long-term lease. Thus far, they have garnered nearly 500 signatures.
But Lignos said by Oct. 31 he expects to close down. He said he is attempting to make arrangements to stay through the winter, but at this point he expects the store to be closed for about six months until it reopens as Tops.
Lignos has owned the store since 2009; it has been locally owned since 1965. Lignos said customers will have fewer choices and are already surrounded by six other Tops Markets
“Now it is only going to be Tops and they are forced to go there,” said Lignos.
He said they will also be losing a member of their community.
“Everyone is on a first-name basis,” said Lignos. “We treat our customers and employees like family. I donate to the Sanborn Historical Society, the Sanborn Fire Department. I’m a member of the Sanborn Business Association. I sponsor Ransomville Speedway. I’m involved in a lot of community events. I give back to the community. This is not a profitable location. It is here for the community.”
Andrew Brocato, Tops Market Director of Community and Public Relations said, “Our long-term commitment has been neighbors helping neighbors and we are a part of every community we work in. We live and give back to the communities we serve. If we come to terms, we will certainly do well by the Sanborn community.”
Brocato said he thinks if they are successful in expanding the plaza, “It will be and exciting opportunity.”
Lignos said he had been updating the market over the last six years, putting in new refrigeration and state-of-the-art scanning units. Lignos said despite the support from the community, it seems unlikely that they will change the outcome.
“The power of Benderson and Tops with 165 stores are going to crush the little guy.” said Lignos.