By Lance Mihm
ST. MARYS -- Howell's IGA of New Bremen will manage the new Pantry Pride Store to open this year in St. Marys, according to a press release sent out by Howell's Vice President Tom Howell.
The Pantry Pride Store will open in the former Big Bear store, located along state Route 703. It was a Pantry Pride prior to 1992. The building is owned by SBA Realty, a partnership of Ken Arps of Celina, Don Schramm of Wapakoneta and Jacque Bradford of St. Marys.
"We are making improvements to the facility to get it ready. We are probably looking at about four or five weeks hopefully," Arps this morning said of opening the store.
Arps said the store manager will be Kirk Speckman of Celina, who began working with the original Pantry Pride chain at age 16. Speckman stayed with Big Bear when they opened the local stores, and Speckman worked his way through the ranks. He had been manager at the New Bremen Big Bear for the last three years before it closed earlier this year.
Arps said the store will have the same format as the old Pantry Pride, with the Howells running the business. Pantry Pride has not been open in St. Marys since SBA Realty terminated the business in October 1992 and leased the building to Penn Traffic, owners of Big Bear. Penn Traffic filed for bankruptcy earlier this year and closed Big Bear sites in Wapakoneta, New Bremen, St. Marys and Celina. Arps said SBA decided to reopen the location as a Pantry Pride after not receiving viable offers to purchase the building.
Currently the only grocery store in St. Marys is Chief, located at the St. Marys Square shopping center. Several other groceries reportedly also are looking at St. Marys as a potential site for new stores.
Giant Eagle, a chain of independently owned and operated grocery stores in the Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland areas, is looking at the possibility of putting a store in St. Marys, the newspaper was told. At a city council meeting it was announced a new commercial and residential development anchored by a Kroger store is being planned to open in the fall on the southwest corner of U.S. 33 and state Route 66.