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Wednesday, Oct. 7, 1998

Supermarket planned for Padre

Island's first grocery store scheduled to open in spring 1999

By GLASTON FORD
Caller-Times
    Padre Island residents may soon have one less reason to drive across the JFK Causeway.
    The island is about to get its first supermarket, which developers say will give mainland residents another reason to drive to the island.
    Clyde and Peggy Smith will break ground on the 70,000-square-foot Smitty's Market Place on Friday. The supermarket will specialize in quality food products and specialty retail departments, such as a fudge department, a butcher-service meat department and an upscale gift store, the Smiths said.
    An upscale, 180-seat, family-style restaurant -- not a snack bar -- is included in the plans, along with a 60-seat banquet room, said Clyde Smith, who has more than 50 years of experience in the grocery business.
    -- ``We found in coming down here all the time that there was a need for a supermarket,'' said Smith, who has visited the island frequently in the past 15 years.
    -- The store will be a shopping destination, not just a place to rush in and grab some groceries, Peggy Smith said. ``I think our store will be a neighborhood meeting place, where golfers come for lunch,'' she said.
    The supermarket, which will open in spring 1999, will have a pharmacy, a deli and a gourmet market center where customers can buy prepared carry-out foods, the Smiths said. It will employ about 200 people.
    Padre Island residents consistently have ranked a grocery store as their No. 1 requested service in surveys conducted by the Padre Isles Property Owners Association, said John Trice, a 20-year island resident and chairman of the Greater Corpus Christi Business Alliance Padre Island Area Council.
    ``We need a grocery story because the residents on Padre Island don't want to drive 15 miles round trip (to the H-E-B in Flour Bluff) if they don't have to,'' Trice said.
    ``Padre Islanders hate to cross over the bridge. A good weekend is when I don't go over the bridge. It fills a need for the consumer and it fills a bigger need that it helps certify us a community.''
    Smitty's Market Place will cover eight acres on the north side of South Padre Island Drive not far from the JFK Causeway. It will be the first building on the left when driving onto the island.

Work already started

    Smith, who owned his first store in 1946 and has developed and sold supermarket chains in Missouri and Arizona, said he has always picked his own store locations.
    Signs of preliminary site work are visible at the construction site. Haas Anderson has been bringing in sand to fill the site to the required level and should be finished in about 30 days, he said.
    In September 1997, the Smiths placed a sign on the property announcing the grocery store and real estate agent Paul Lozuk announced the pending sale of the property.
    But development of the site, which includes some wetlands, was delayed while environmental issues were resolved, Smith said.
    Local architectural firm Cotton/Landreth is designing the building, he said.
    Smith built the Smitty's stores in Arizona to a 20-store, 6,000-employee chain before selling it in 1981, he said. In May, Albertson's bought the 10-store Smitty's chain in Missouri, he said.
    The Smiths also developed the 1,400-acre Tapatio Springs Country Club and Resort in the Hill Country 25 miles west of San Antonio.
    Managing a lone grocery store will be a challenge, said store director Climaco Gonzales, who managed 12 Smitty's stores in Arizona. A single store does not have the same distribution network or support that a chain has, he said.
    Ground-breaking for the store will be at 3 p.m. Friday at the supermarket site, 14040 S. Padre Island Drive.
    Staff writer Glaston Ford can be reached at 886-3678 or by e-mail at fordg@scripps.com

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