Despite nearly 18 months of delays, Waveland Mayor Tommy Longo said Thursday that a proposed grocery store at the old Sav-A-Center site is still a go, but exactly when it will open is still a mystery.
“They are still committed to coming here,” Longo said. “As soon as the owner gets his financing, he is going to move quickly on it.”
In late 2007, the city announced that the Sav-A-Center site had been purchased by Claiborne Hill, a Picayune-based grocery chain.
Over the past 18 months, however, there has been little activity at the building, which is a mere shell with no roof.
Prior to Hurricane Katrina, there were four full-service grocery stores–Waveland Market; Sav-A-Center; Winn-Dixie, and Wal-Mart–in the Bay-Waveland area.
Only Wal-Mart has reopened and many local leaders have stressed the importance of having another grocery store.
Hopes were sparked in recent weeks when store owners apparently began cleaning up the site and hauling away trash in dumpsters.
Developers hope to renovate the old Sav-A-Center property and turn it into a 30,000 square-foot facility that will employ between 75 and 100 people.
Claiborne Hill Supermarket currently operates grocery stores in Picayune and Bogalousa.
Longo said he has been in constant contact with the property owners and is getting positive feedback.
“They had all intentions of renovating the property right away,” Longo said. “He had his financing in place and then the economy went south and he had to redo everything.”
Claiborne Hill is currently wrapping up improvements to its Picayune store and doing other projects at other locations, Longo said.
“Regardless of what people say, it is his property,” Longo said. “He does not have to build a grocery store, but he has been paying taxes and trying to keep the property up.”
Part of the plan to bring the grocery store to Waveland was to take advantage of a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture.
The grant has since been given back to USDA, Longo said, but he said he is hopeful the project will continue.
Longo said not only will a new grocery store be a financial plus for the city, but it will also be an emotional boost, as well.
“We have emphasized how important this is to the mental and spiritual recovery of the city,” Longo said. “I think he understands that very well. I don’t have a timeline of when the store will come, but I have been assured it is still a go.”
BY Dwayne Bremer
The Sea Coast Echo