Shoppers who mourned the closing of Bremen’s Save a Lot in July were happily shopping at their new neighborhood store last week.
Thriftown Grocery held its grand opening a week ago, in the cleaned and freshened up building on Alabama Avenue that used to house Save a Lot. But it might be called a re-opening, said owner Chad Smith. Thriftown is a name he chose because of the history of the grocery stores at that location, he said. When he was growing up, the store was called Thriftown and he could often be found playing in the back while his grandfather and great-uncle worked as butchers in the shop. He paid homage to them with a sign over the meat cases reading Jake’s Meat Market. He also asked one of the former owners, Donnie Rogers, to attend the grand opening. Rogers even bagged the first customers groceries, Smith said.
“I grew up in the back of this place,” Smith said. “The original Thriftown, this was a landmark in this town.”
At the time, the store was owned by Rogers and Harold Tarpley. It was a busy place.
“On Friday afternoon when Sewell’s and Hubbard’s and everybody else got off work, they came here cashed their paychecks and bought their groceries for the week,” Smith said.
Smith used to own a couple of convenience stores in Carrollton and he’s worked for Eby Brown, a grocery supplier, and for Coca-Cola. So, opening the store was returning to his roots in a professional sense, too, he said.
He wanted to provide something to his customers that they can’t get at chain stores, Smith said. Megastores lack the personal service that a locally-owned grocery store can provide, he said.
“I don’t have a corporate item list that I have to keep in here,” Smith said as an example. “So, if I have a customer ask for an item we don’t have, it’s a matter of me just ordering it and getting it in here. I don’t have to call corporate and get it put in the store set.”
His daughter, Brittney Smith, 23, who is working with her dad at the new store, said she was a Save-a-Lot-baby and had never been in the store when it was Thriftown. But she has her own goals for the store.
“We are a high-quality grocery store that has anything anybody needs,” she said, adding, “Smaller than a Walmart, but big expectations.”
She appreciates the history, though and hopes to make it a family history.
“I want my daughter to grow up knowing how to do everything in case we buy the building eventually and pass it down to her,” Brittney Smith said.
Customers are excited to have their neighborhood store back.
Sheila Noll said she shopped at the store when it was Save A Lot at least twice a week because it was handy.
“I just live up around the corner from here, so it was easy to just walk down here,” Noll said. “It’s nice to have this back open again.”
A transplant from Wisconsin, she doesn’t remember the old Thriftown, but other customers did.
Bonnie Boyce said she likes the return to the old store name. It brings back memories of when her daughter was young, Boyce said.
Jai Otwell was also transported back in time by the name change.
“When I was a kid here, this is where we came to get groceries,” Otwell said. “When I was 16, I worked there.”
Brittney Smith said the store is dedicated to serving their neighbors.
“We want it to be a small, local, locally-owned, easy for people to come in and come out, get what they need,” she said.