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SHOPPERS WELCOME SAVE-A-LOT TO CENTRAL PARK PLAZA <br> DISCOUNT GROCERY CHAIN OPENS STORE AT SITE THAT QUALITY MARKETS LEFT MORE THAN A YEAR AGO

The customers were eager to get into the new Central Park Save-A-Lot and start shopping at Wednesday's grand opening event.

More than 100 people were lined up outside the new Central Park Plaza store for its debut. Nearby, officials involved in the project took turns at a podium, offering compliments and thank-yous.

Then, a woman in line shouted a question that trumped everyone: "When are you going to open this store?"

James McClelland, an official with the store's licensee, good-naturedly dashed to the front door to start the ribbon cutting. Moments later, customers were crowding the aisles with shopping carts and filling the five checkout aisles.

The customers were rewarded for their wait: the first 200 of them received a free bag of samples. The same giveaway will happen this morning at the store.

Save-A-Lot filled a void in the plaza created in August 2003, when Quality Markets shut its store. A development team that includes Savarino Construction Services hopes the new store will help rejuvenate the run-down shopping plaza as part of a larger revival plan.

Customers said they welcomed the return of a grocery store to the site.

"A lot of people have been waiting a long time for this," said Walter Jackson, as he bagged his groceries.

Rodney Jones, who was shopping with his mother, said he appreciated the store's appearance. "I think that's the main thing, a clean atmosphere," he said.

McClelland, division president of store licensee Houchens Industries, greeted customers as they walked in and out.

"You're going to see how the community supports this in the first 10 days," he said.

Save-A-Lot sells a limited number of popular items at discounted prices. To cut costs, customers bring their own bags or buy them for 10 cents each. The new Buffalo store has an aisle devoted to items that sell for no more than $1, which is new for a Save-A-Lot location in this region.

Save-A-Lot is also working on plans to open a store inside a former Quality Markets in Lackawanna.

Discount grocers such as Save-A-Lot and Aldi have built a presence in the region, offering select items at discounted prices. Aldi has about a dozen stores in Western New York, and Save-A-Lot, whose stores are operated by licensees, now has 13 stores in New York state, several of which are in the region.

e-mail: mglynn@buffnews.com

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