Kehrs Mill Schnucks opens to mixed emotions and reviews
By: Carol Enright
It had all the trappings of festive community celebration. The mayor and company officials were all smiles. The excitement of the public was as palpable as the mouthwatering samples that were offered as they wandered past the beautifully arranged produce, artisanal cheeses, baked goods, pizzeria, sushi bar and steaks sizzling on the store’s much-touted “Smoke and Grill” rotisserie. Noticeably missing from this grand-opening event were any signs of the heated controversy that has surrounded this newest Schnucks at the corner of Clarkson and Kehrs Mill roads in Ballwin.
In his remarks prior to the ribbon cutting on Nov. 1, Schnucks President and COO Todd Schnuck said, “If you look at the outside of the new store, you can tell that we worked hard to try and make this store a part of the community and have a feel of part of the community.”
But Linda Gidday, who lives directly behind the store in the Clarkson Crossing subdivision, said she and her neighbors do not feel that Schnucks has done a good job of reaching out to the community.
“I think the entire process, from start to finish, was shrouded in secrecy. And we, the abutting neighbors, have had no understanding or involvement in the process, the timetable,” Gidday said in an interview the morning of the grand opening. “We weren’t given information before they cut trees down, before they put up fences, before they put lighting up. There’s been absolutely no communication with the neighbors at large.”
Gidday said her two biggest complaints with the new store are lights and noise. She said the 10-foot fence the company erected as a buffer between the store and nearby homes has done little to alleviate these issues.
“There are lights that come straight into my kitchen table. There are lights that I can see while I’m trying to watch television. We can lay in bed and see the lights from the store,” Gidday said.
Gidday also commented on the “ridiculous amounts of noise” that have woken up Gidday and her husband most mornings for the past two years.
“We were promised that this was going to be seamless, you wouldn’t notice this in your neighborhood,” said Gidday. “I would challenge anybody at Schnucks or on the city government to come and sit inside my house – never mind outside my house, come sit inside my house – and tell me that this has not changed the look and feel and flavor of the way we live our lives.”
Schnuck said his company has worked with the neighbors to address these concerns.
“The existing ordinance of the city limited the height of fences and the request came from the neighbors that they’d like it higher, so we worked with the city to change that so that we could raise that,” Schnuck said.
He noted that the parking lot lights are lower and shielded and that the lighting on the building “highlights the architecture.”
“What we tried to do is design a store in such a way so that it fit in. It wasn’t just a box,” said Schnuck.
When asked if the company planned to continue working to address the concerns of nearby neighbors, Schnuck said, “There’s not a whole lot more that we could do with the building.
“We built it to the city’s specifications.”
But he added that the store wants “to be a good neighbor, so we’re always going to listen.”
Ballwin Mayor Tim Pogue said the city would continue to work with residents as issues arise.
“And Schnucks has been very open and very willing to work with us and help to resolve any of those issues,” he said.
Pogue called the new store and the 158 jobs it created “fantastic.”
“Ballwin does not have a personal property tax or a real estate tax, so we rely heavily on sales tax,” Pogue said. “Anytime that we can bring new business into Ballwin, it’s a plus for the city.”
Jim Nelson, who lives in the Williamsburg Green subdivision just south of the new store off Clarkson, has opposed the development from day one.
“I think everybody and the neighbors are all disappointed, angry and upset at the way that the thing has gone down from the beginning until even today,” Nelson said.
Nelson’s main concerns with the store are increased traffic and the safety of students who attend the neighboring Marquette High and Kehrs Mill Elementary. Williamsburg Green connects to the Clarkson Crossing neighborhood, providing a pathway from Clarkson to Kehrs Mill. Nelson said he has already witnessed “people cutting through our subdivision to get off of Clarkson over to Kehrs Mill without having to wait, wait, wait until they can go through several light changes to get where they want to go past Kehrs Mill.”
The store has entrances off Clarkson and Kehrs Mill, which have created another impromptu cut-through for drivers, according to Nelson.
“I saw people cutting through the Schnucks parking lot today to get from Clarkson to Kehrs Mill because they didn’t want to wait on the light,” said Nelson.
Nelson said he and his family would never shop at the new Schnucks or any Schnucks store, for that matter. But shoppers at the grand opening seemed thrilled to welcome the upscale grocery to the community.
Chesterfield resident, Ann Banker, called the store “beautiful.”
“It’s been fun watching it develop and looking at all the details and how they made the back of the store so attractive to people driving by – not to mention the front of the store. I think it’s lovely,” she said.
Banker also commended Schnucks for minimizing traffic disruptions during construction and taking “the extra step to make it appealing and not make it look like it just fell out of the sky.”
Banker said that she had been “fairly neutral” to the store being built, but she knew that she would shop there if it came to be.
“But I could certainly understand the opponents of the idea, because it was in their backyard,” she added.
Jim Ram, who lives in the same subdivision as Gidday, was at the grand opening.
Ram said he thought the new store “turned out great.”
When asked if he had supported the store being built so close to his neighborhood, Ram said, “I was neutral.
“Most of the people in my subdivision were very much against it.”
Ram said he was happy with Schnucks’ construction of the privacy fence and the lighting.
“The lighting is really not an obstruction, as far as I can see,” Ram said. “It’s nice to have a grocery store within walking distance.”
Marianne Adoor, of Chesterfield, could not wait to shop in the new store.
“I’ve always wanted it here,” Adoor said. “When they started talking about it, I sympathized with the complaints, but I didn’t think it would hurt property values because I’ve always had a Schnucks.”
Adoor explained that she has always lived close to a Schnucks and she was excited that the new store would be “real close” to her home in Chesterfield.
Adoor said she felt sorry for the people whose homes were adjacent to the store, “but it seems to me like they put the Schnucks as close as possible to Clarkson Road, away from those houses.”
Although this particular Schnucks will never be far enough away from Gidday’s home, she said she is still hopeful that she and her neighbors will be able to “open up a dialogue with Schnucks.”
“There’s still a lot that they can do to help make a difference, and they have not extended the olive branch, in my opinion,” she said.
ALL THE BELLS AND WHISTLES
The 41,000-square-foot store might best be described as a smaller version of the company’s flagship store in Des Peres and a larger version of its Culinaria store in downtown St. Louis.
So, what can shoppers expect to see at the new Schnucks?
- Smoke and Grill rotisserie (think chickens spinning on the rotisserie and steaks on the grill)
- Pizzeria, sushi bar, made-to-order hot foods
- Cheese island, olive bar and Sandwich Express deli, featuring Boar’s Head meats
- Cooking and demonstration station
- Expanded win and liquor department with wine tasting counter
- A 5,000-square-foot loft seating area and community room
Store hours: 6 a.m.-midnight, seven days a week
During the month of November, participating nonprofit organizations will earn a 10-percent bonus on top of the regular Schnucks eScrip Community Card bonus when shopping at the Schnucks Kehrs Mill.