On Wednesday morning, a shopping center in one of Las Vegas’ oldest neighborhoods had something that hadn’t been seen there in years — hordes of paying customers.
The reason for the crowds, on the surface, was banal — a grocery store opened. But the opening had meaning for people in the area known as West Las Vegas because it represents investment, growth and employment in an area that hasn’t had its share.
“This is long overdue,” Mayor Oscar Goodman said at a ceremony preceding the opening. “This is remarkable. It’s happening at a time when everyone is complaining that the economics are tough.”
The new store is a Buy Low Market, which is one of the brands operated by K.V. Mart Inc., a Southern California chain that has staked its first claim in Nevada.
It replaces a Vons grocery store that closed in 2004.
The location is close to the center of the West Las Vegas neighborhood, which is bounded by Bonanza Road, Carey Avenue, Rancho Drive and Interstate 15. Historically, it was a bustling center of Las Vegas’ black community, but people and businesses moved away as desegregation progressed following the 1950s.
For those living there now, the lack of a grocery store presented challenges, especially to those without vehicles.
It also created a chicken-or-the-egg redevelopment problem. The lack of a store made the area less attractive as a place to live, but it was hard to attract a store without a solid base of residents.
“This is a big deal. This is one of the best things they could’ve done,” said Cathy Flucas, who moved to the neighborhood about the time that Vons moved out.
The new store is within walking distance, she said, which means she won’t have to get rides from friends. And she liked the prices compared to what she’s seen at other stores, especially since she recently was told to watch her cholesterol.
“I couldn’t afford all the veggies they wanted me to eat, but look at my basket now,” she said, looking over a cart stuffed with produce and discounted cuts of meat.
Hundreds of people pressed their way into the store the moment it opened, and the produce and meat sections were as packed as a Toys ‘R’ Us the morning after Thanksgiving.
Diane Hitch decided to keep still during the cordial mayhem and guard the Pepsi, cornbread, eggs and whole chickens in her cart while her friend went after a roast.
“It’s like Christmas in September,” Hitch said of the opening, adding that while she has grocery shopping options, it’s good to have another competitor, especially one that focuses on low prices.
K.V. Mart’s locations are in inner-city neighborhoods and specialize in tailoring offerings to the ethnic populations in neighborhoods they serve. The Las Vegas store employs 120 people.
Las Vegas’ Redevelopment Agency will provide up to $200,000 for remodeling and equipment purchases for the store, and the owners plan to apply for up to $50,000 under a city program that helps businesses improve the exteriors of buildings.
John Edmond, the shopping center’s developer, is focusing on filling the rest of the vacant spaces. His corner also has an auto parts store, a clothing store, a bank branch and a dollar store.
“It looks good. We’ve had quite a few bites,” he said. “In the beginning … we had about six national tenants that were tied to having a full-service grocery store.
“Now that we do have a full-service grocery store, I think we’ll have an influx of people that want to take a look at what we have to offer.”
As usual, Goodman couldn’t let the opportunity pass to make a joke about his beloved gin.
“I have one beef,” Goodman said. “I was going to get the biggest bottle of gin that anybody could ever drink, but I was told the liquor department wasn’t open.”
Contact reporter Alan Choate at email@example.com or 702-229-6435.