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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

New Saratoga Price Chopper a Jennifer Hudson-like transformation

I was a Grand Union girl in high school, working the register at the Voorheesville store and earning double time on Sundays in the deli (another day I’ll tell you how I sliced a sliver off my finger avoiding the head cheese). But for my entire adult life, I’ve been a Price Chopper shopper. Had the Advantage card Sunoco offer started in 1977, by now I’d have enough free gas to fill up every car, truck and plane in Saratoga County. I remember when the Wilton store opened, and when “my” Ballston Spa store moved to a brand new building at the far end of the plaza. What I don’t remember is using the words “beautiful” and “grocery store” in the same breath. Until this week. After reading Saratogian reporter Mike Cignoli’s story and watching his video about the new Price Chopper Limited on Railroad Place, I had to see for myself. So on Monday afternoon I dropped in, and my jaw dropped. Think breathtaking transformation, the grocery store version of Jennifer Hudson. Smaller, but gorgeous. Sure, it’s all shiny, clean and grand opening new, with apples perfectly stacked, crab legs appealingly crossed in the new seafood display, employee uniforms crisp. But that’s not all. It’s brightly lit, classy looking, with covered parking. Some regulars are disappointed that there are fewer items, but the store has offerings that weren’t there before. Looked like plenty to choose from. The operation flippantly referred to by some locals as the “Ghetto Chopper” could easily have been closed and razed. Instead, the Golub family invested in this new store, the first of its kind in the Price Chopper chain. The empty old building, its fate uncertain, still stands next to the splendid new store, which is incorporated into Sonny Bonacio’s mammoth apartment building on the former Price Chopper parking lot. I love that people who live and work in downtown Saratoga Springs have a grocery store – a beautiful little grocery store -- that they can walk to. That’s a big deal. I’m grateful to Sonny Bonacio for continuing to breathe new life into the inner city landscape and to the Golubs for being willing to take a chance. They should be proud of the result. The Ballston Avenue supermarket will still be my core store by the serious weekly shopping. But I’ll also make it a point to do my run-ins at Railroad Place. The way to maintain a thriving downtown is to support it.