Giant Eagle playing a dangerous game

Published Jun 11, 2014 at 5:41 am (Updated Jun 10, 2014 at 11:18 am)

The Giant Eagle, Whole Foods saga has been a real hot button issue locally. As this newspaper reported last week, developers of the former Consol Energy site in Upper St. Clair, 1800 Washington Road Associates, have filed a lawsuit against Moira Cain-Mannix, citing that she worked for Giant Eagle to keep the proposed Whole Foods store from coming to the township. In addition to Whole Foods, the proposed development, called Sienna St. Clair, includes a separate retail building that would include restaurants, offices and limited retail. A separate housing development, also part of Sienna St. Clair, would have plans for about 40 multi-family homes.

The web is a tangled one, as Cain-Mannix is a resident of Upper St. Clair who lives in close proximity to the development. She is also a lawyer with the law firm Marcus & Shapira, which has represented Giant Eagle in the past. In addition, Dan Shapira, founding partner of the firm, holds, directly or indirectly, an ownership position in Giant Eagle, according to court documents.

The suit alleges that Cain-Mannix, acting alone or with other entities, “participated in a plan of obstruction, seeking in any way possible, to delay or destroy the advancement of the Washington Road Development.”

While many residents are upset about the lawsuit and alleged bullying tactics, Giant Eagle states that its reason for concern with the proposed Whole Foods is not, in fact, competition, but traffic congestion.

“As a long-standing member of Pittsburgh’s South Hills community, Giant Eagle has viewed with concern the increasing traffic congestion in the Route 19/Fort Couch Road area and the adverse impact it has on our customers and team members seeking to shop and work in the area,” said Rob Borella, senior director of corporate communications for Giant Eagle, in a statement.

The public, and particularly the residents of Upper St. Clair, are able to see right through the statement. Traffic congestion on Route 19 is nothing new, and with more and more development, it has indeed gotten worse in recent years. For Giant Eagle to say that is why it wants to stop another grocery store from entering the fold is laughable.

The way we see it, Giant Eagle doesn’t like competition. In the same stretch of Route 19, Trader Joe’s, The Fresh Market and Target’s full grocery store are all providing more affordable options for shoppers who don’t necessarily want to shop at Giant Eagle.

On June 9, WTAE reported that two local Shop ‘n Save stores will become Giant Eagles by August – one of which is in South Fayette Township. That means that there will be two Giant Eagles within less than two miles from each other – 1.9 miles, according to Google Maps – on Washington Pike. We don’t see the need for yet another Giant Eagle, particularly with the Giant Eagle Market District Express less than five miles away from the current Shop ‘n Save in South Fayette, and the Giant Eagle Market District in Bethel Park.

Monopoly is a dangerous real life game, and Giant Eagle seems to be rolling the dice. It would have been great to see the Sorbara family, which owned the South Fayette Shop ‘n Save, offer the space to Whole Foods. Whole Foods would definitely make a great addition to the South Hills, and placing one in South Fayette would resolve the current dispute in Upper St. Clair, while eliminating some of the Giant Eagle saturation from the market. Pun intended.

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