Life is good at the bottom

Shop­pers wait for the new mar­ket to open on April 13. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

— The quest to knock some bucks off their food bills brings shop­pers bright and early to the grand open­ing of Bot­tom Dol­lar in Rhawn­hurst.


There’s no short­age of people look­ing for a good deal in North­east Philly. The lines out­side the area’s new­est dis­count su­per­mar­ket dur­ing its re­cent grand open­ing demon­strated that.

Hun­dreds of shop­pers con­verged upon Bot­tom Dol­lar Food at 7900 Roosevelt Blvd. on April 13, as the “soft dis­count” chain de­b­uted its con­ver­sion of the long­time Ilona Keller’s Dugan’s.

“On open­ing day, we ac­tu­ally had cus­tom­ers in our park­ing lot at four-thirty a.m.,” said store man­ager An­gel Pow­ell. “It was an older couple. (The man) said he had heard about the store and had shopped at the ones on Broad Street and in Wil­low Grove. And he was go­ing to be here open­ing day.”

He wasn’t alone. By the sched­uled 8 a.m. open­ing, the former ca­ter­ing-hall park­ing lot already was swell­ing with cars. Though re­l­at­ively new to the Phil­adelphia area, the Bot­tom Dol­lar Food pro­file is grow­ing fast.

It is one of sev­en “ban­ners” op­er­ated by Del­haize Amer­ica, a di­vi­sion of the pub­licly traded Bel­gian com­pany Del­haize Group. Food Li­on stores are un­der the same um­brella.

There are 47 Bot­tom Dol­lar Food stores in Pennsylvania, New Jer­sey, Mary­land, Vir­gin­ia, North Car­o­lina and Ohio. The com­pany opened its first Phil­adelphia-area store in King of Prus­sia in Oc­to­ber 2010. There are 19 now, span­ning north in­to the Le­high Val­ley, west in­to Read­ing and Coates­ville, and throughout south­ern New Jer­sey.

In the city, there’s one at 9303 Krewstown Road in Bustleton, along with Broad Street and God­frey Av­en­ue in Ol­ney and 7627 Lind­bergh Blvd. in South­w­est Philly.

“We’re com­mit­ted to our ex­pan­sion in the Phil­adelphia mar­ket and are look­ing for op­por­tun­it­ies,” said dis­trict man­ager Mike Bren­nan.

Wherever you go, the mar­ket­ing niche is the same. It’s not about hav­ing the biggest floor space or widest se­lec­tion. Nor is it about frilly amen­it­ies like an on-site bakery, butcher shop or takeout lunch counter. Though it may seem an oft-heard re­frain in the re­tail world, Bot­tom Dol­lar really is about lower prices and friendly, en­thu­si­ast­ic ser­vice, store of­fi­cials say.

“It’s about prices and en­ergy,” Pow­ell said. “All of our as­so­ci­ates are en­er­get­ic and we have all your ba­sic needs. We try to give our cus­tom­ers the biggest bang for the buck.”

Bot­tom Dol­lar Food stores prac­tice a “price guar­an­tee.” If a cus­tom­er can find a spe­cif­ic product for a lower price some­where else, even if it’s a sale price, Bot­tom Dol­lar will beat that price for a penny, store of­fi­cials claim.

The frugal­ity fil­ters down even to the bags they use to pack your gro­cer­ies. Cus­tom­ers should bring their own re­usable sacks, which are for sale in the store. Mean­while, the store charges 10 cents apiece for the dis­pos­able plastic bags, al­though Bot­tom Dol­lar card­hold­ers get them for a nick­el a bag.

The store uses oth­er cost-cut­ting ef­fi­cien­cies. Newly ar­riv­ing products don’t sit in a stor­e­room or private walk-in cool­er. In­stead, they’re moved from the de­liv­ery truck straight to the shelves. The pro­duce sec­tion is a cooled room at the front of the store. Frozen foods go straight in­to their dis­play cases.

“With pro­duce and meat, the less hand­ling you do, the bet­ter product it’s go­ing to be,” Pow­ell said.

Non-per­ish­ables of­ten are stacked and dis­played in cut­away boxes. Man­agers use com­puter-as­sisted in­vent­ory con­trols to track product sales and guide pur­chas­ing. Pow­ell and her staff learned right away, for ex­ample, that there seems to be a re­l­at­ively high de­mand on but­ter­milk and honey at the new store. There’s also a kosh­er sec­tion.

There are about 7,500 dif­fer­ent items in the store, about 65 per­cent of which are con­sidered na­tion­al brands and 35 per­cent re­gion­al or private brands (some might call them gen­er­ic brands), which are gen­er­ally offered at a lower price. My Es­sen­tials and Han­na­ford are the primary private brands in the store.

The store cov­ers about 18,000 square feet and has nine aisles.

“We could’ve tried to squeeze the aisles down, but we wanted to keep it open,” Bren­nan said.

The d&ea­cute;cor is in­ten­ded to re­flect the same cheery at­ti­tude, with lime green and or­ange the col­ors of choice. Snappy slo­gans, such as “Food prices that kick bot­tom” and “I’m a black belt in price chop­ping,” ac­cent the walls and the back of em­ploy­ees’ uni­form T-shirts.

There are roughly 50 em­ploy­ees, about 70 per­cent of whom are part-time.

“We held three job fairs in the com­munity. The ma­jor­ity came from right here in the North­east Phil­adelphia area,” Pow­ell said.

They con­duc­ted about 250 in­ter­views in all. Store of­fi­cials also did ad­vance com­munity out­reach in­volving its neigh­bors.

“We were very mind­ful to be re­spect­ful of neigh­bors,” Bren­nan said.

An al­ley sep­ar­ates the rear of the store, as well as a Ja­pan­ese res­taur­ant and a wo­men’s fit­ness cen­ter, from homes. De­liv­ery trucks are sup­posed to ac­cess the store via Roosevelt Boulevard and Borbe­ck Street and not use nearby res­id­en­tial streets.

The dock area is ori­ented so that truck cabs and their id­ling en­gines face away from the houses. The trash re­cept­acles are kept in a pen that faces a car deal­er­ship on Borbe­ck Av­en­ue. As for shop­ping carts, they fea­ture an auto­mated lock­ing sys­tem so that the wheels can’t spin if they are re­moved from the prop­erty.

The store is open to the pub­lic from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday to Sat­urday, and from 8 to 9 on Sunday.

Demo­graph­ic­ally, store of­fi­cials want to ap­peal to every­body.

“Eco­nom­ics is eco­nom­ics,” Pow­ell said. “With the times that the coun­try is in right now, we have people in need and they want to get the best bar­gain they can.” ••

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