Guest Column: Schnuck’s should not have been allowed to monopolize Rockford market

By Amy Harbison

First, let me start by explaining what the Rural Oaks Schnuck’s means to my family. It is the “Cheers” of grocery stores. There is nothing like shopping where “everybody knows your name.” Many retail stores have their employees use your name from your check or credit card when thanking you for shopping there. At the Rural Oaks store, this was not necessary to make you feel welcomed or thanked.

The employees at this store made your shopping experience feel local — the way it felt when my grandma used to take me to Logli or Hilander before they were bought out. It’s not like going into the Schnuck’s on East State Street, where nothing can be found without asking, and the aisles are 25 feet long. You could always find an employee close by to help when you needed it.

I would like to give the employees a round of applause at this location. Their adaptation to constant change, their positivity, and friendliness are unmatched compared to any other store I shop at. All of you will be missed.

My family is one of many in the area who does not own a vehicle. I do the majority of grocery shopping once a month sharing between three stores and do my weekly necessity shopping there. I have heard talk about boycotting Schnuck’s, and at first, I did not agree. I didn’t want to see any employees lose their jobs. From what I have heard, managers are being demoted and hours are being cut. It seems to me they would be better off looking elsewhere for employment. So after hearing this, I will finish out the month of May doing as much shopping (as store shelves allow) at Rural Oaks, and after that, I will shop at Valli, Aldi and Walmart. I do not care for Walmart, but they will happily match Schnuck’s advertised prices.

Was this their plan from the beginning? Did they keep the store open so that Rockford would not boycott them? Why not let Rockford aldermen know ahead of time so they could plan and prepare for the closure?

As a person who has worked for small businesses for eight years, it makes me wonder why they didn’t change the store hours. A small business owner would not just throw in the towel; they would take some of their valuable time and assess what could be done to save the business. Maybe they could have opened a few hours later and closed a few hours earlier. Why be open if you don’t have the customers to merit it?

I also heard that Schnuck’s is not a “discount” store. They want to portray a certain ambiance in their stores. Really! If I want ambiance, I will go to an elegant restaurant, not an overpriced grocery store.

I do not think Schnuck’s should have been allowed to monopolize the market. I believe that Schnuck’s should have focused more on its customer base and less on monopolizing the Rockford market.

As a neighborhood, we need to find out what we can do to bring in another grocery store. If Schnuck’s owns the building, they may sell to the highest bidder and not care about the trouble it causes Rockford.

Lastly, I am sure that this will just be blamed on big business. Schnuck’s did what it had to do to save the lot of its stores. I do not believe they did enough to try to save this one. It was very seldom that I went in there and the store was not busy.

Amy Harbison is a stay-at-home mom, wife and writer who has lived in Rockford’s Rural Oaks neighborhood for seven years.

From the May 28-June 3, 2014, issue

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