Anchor grocery store opens in Mariner’s Mall

by Peter Jakey–Managing Editor

Less than three months since reconstruction work started, the Rogers City Save-A-Lot opened its doors to the public Saturday at the Mariners’ Mall.

There will be a soft opening Saturday with the official grand opening the next day, according to Tim Freeman of Freeman Family Enterprises of Gaylord. This will be the company’s 24th store – most are in northern Michigan.

ROGERS CITY’S Save-A-Lot opened Saturday in the heart of downtown Rogers City. Pictured are, from left, owners Tom and Tim Freeman, and store manager Josh Martinez. (Photo by Peter Jakey)
ROGERS CITY’S Save-A-Lot opened Saturday in the heart of downtown Rogers City. Pictured are, from left, owners Tom and Tim Freeman, and store manager Josh Martinez. (Photo by Peter Jakey)

“We love the location, being downtown and proximity to the harbor,” said Tim.

The owners, as well as district and store managers from the region were on-site earlier this week constructing shelves and putting product on them.  Dairy, frozen and meat products arrived Wednesday and Thursday.

Customers walking through the sliding doors will see the checkout area straight ahead and the grocery aisles, to the right.

“We are a little bit behind compared to other stores we have opened,” said Tim, regarding the late arriving product. “Typically, we already would have had product in our coolers.”

Tom Freeman has been staying at a Rogers City motel and said local residents have been “very welcoming.” He talked to many people in the community at restaurants and stores, who are looking forward to the opening.

“Everyone seems to be very excited to have us here,” said Tim. “We’ve heard all positives. They are excited that they will have their own Save-A-Lot.”

There will be two marquee specials when the store opens with $1.99 gallons of milk and fresh ground hamburger for $1.99 a pound.

“It was crazy project, raising the floor 31 inches in the amount of time we had to do it,” said Tom. The part of the store space that was raised formerly housed Mr. Ed’s IGA. The other part of the 15,000 square feet was once the Presque Isle Pharmacy, an original business in the ministrip mall.

Tim said they had considered expanding into to Rogers City in the past and the firm now believes the time is right.

Renovation of the space started the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend. “It all turned out, better than I thought it would,” said Tom. “One thing that is nice about this store, if people are used to shopping in Alpena or Cheboygan, the floor space is bigger than both of them.”

The Rogers City store will have expanded dairy and lunch meat. “If they go into Cheboygan or Alpena, it’s 24 feet,” said Tom. “Here it is 32 feet. Dairy, same thing.”

There’s also a different look with the polished concrete floor and open ceiling.

Josh Martinez, who has worked in the Alpena and East Tawas stores, will be the store manager. Josh and his wife Chelsey will be moving to Rogers City. The assistant manager is Lisa VanMaele of Rogers City. Jeff Plath will handle the meat department.

“With gas prices coming down, people have been able to save a lot on their fuel bill,” said Tim. “Now, we are going to help them save on their grocery bills.”

About 15 to 18 associates are expected to work at the store.

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The Mariner’s Mall opened in the spring of 1977. First to open for business was the Dairy Queen Brazier Burger April 1 followed by the Ben Franklin Store April 14 and the Presque Isle Pharmacy April 28.

Last to open May 12, 1977 was Mr. Ed’s IGA on the east side of the complex. An article in the May 26, 1977 edition of the Advance called the Mariner’s Mall the “first businesses to carry out the nautical theme proposed for the city less than three years ago.”

The building of the shopping complex came after the city adopted urban renewal in the early 1970s. That process purchased exsisting buildings on the site, clearing the way for the new development.

Buildings were demolished in 1972 and a parking lot was constructed. The site remained vacant until construction on the mall began in August 1976. Despite hold-ups in construction caused by cold weather, all four stores opened on schedule in the spring.