My experience with Eisenberg’s

Love to my bud Fred on bringing me news today about Eisenberg’s downtown planning to close (this reporter is everywhere folks).

After reading the story, I felt compelled to chime in on both what I read and my experience at Eisenberg’s over the years.

First, not sure if I believe the light rail excuse. Sure, maybe business went down and that can be documented, but Eisenberg’s was three blocks off the nearest construction on Cedar Street. The store’s parking lot was not affected, and it wasn’t a literal construction zone around the shop like some other businesses have seen (Black Dog Cafe, anyone?) How, exactly, was it affected? If Eisenberg’s was affected, than nearly every business in downtown could legitimately say they were affected. I’m not buying it.

My guess would be the guy felt squeezed out by the impending Lunds, but that project won’t be done until mid 2014, according to the story. Railing against light rail by business owners is getting stale, and this might be the weakest example yet. Eisenberg’s isn’t near construction. Look at Lenny Russo, perhaps one of the most vocal light rail supporter, and his Heartland restaurant. Russo’s one of many closer to the mayhem of construction and has thus far stuck it out. If you want to feel truly sorry for business owners, look up the way at the desolation of University Avenue east of Lexington.

Eisenberg’s was a friendly corner store, but also had its faults. Selection of produce was fairly limited, it was poorly lit, old and smelled weird, and bargain cereal was often expired. Take stuff off the shelves if it’s expired. One thing I would specifically stop in for was orange juice, which featured second hand prices. The thing was, every container was covered with this sugary film, probably coated while being transported from whatever big box grocery Eisenberg’s gets its stuff  from.

Then there were the hours of operation. The story lists them, and yeah that’s a problem. It opens early, but closes by 6 p.m. Many folks grocery shop after work, not before.

I’m not exactly crying it’s leaving.


2 responses to “My experience with Eisenberg’s

  1. We would like to comment on the recent article in the Pioneer Press, as we have had a number of people ask about the closing of our business, and I would like to clarify things. The reporter, Frederick Melo, in writing his article, asked Max 5 or 6 questions, all pertaining to the light rail and its impact on our business. He did not delve further into the reasons behind our closing, he left it at the impact the LRT has had on our business (which has been negative). The article insinuated that the reason we are closing our doors is due to the Light Rail construction. Mr. Melo made a number of assumptions and presented the article as us blaming the construction for our closing. While the construction and related detours and traffic jams have really hurt our business, that is not what drove us to close our store, it was only the straw that broke the camel’s back. Which is exactly what Max said.

    Our store at its core is in essence an outlet store. People that love our store know that we aren’t the type of store you come to with a list. We are a different store every time you come. Sometimes the store is filled to the rafters with great deals, sometimes there weren’t as many deals to be had and the shelves are not full. We buy closeout, close-dated, warehouse damage and other merchandise at discounted prices and then are able to turn around and sell those products at greatly reduced prices. Over the years, the vendors who we bought these goods from have become more efficient in their buying practices, have been able to reduce their warehouse damage, and have turned to other vendors to outsource their unsaleable goods. This over time has reduced the volume and variety of merchandise available to us to sell in our store, in turn hurting sales.

    At the same time vendors we buy our merchandise from were becoming more efficient, Lowertown began undertaking a redevelopment. What once were surface level parking lots that surrounded our business, became Printer’s Row, Sibley Court and Dakota on the Park. As the area around us was remodeled and improved, we invested over $150,000 to remodel the exterior of our building and buy new equipment for the interior, in an attempt to market ourselves to the new residents as well as continue to serve our current customers. We extended our hours to 8:00 a few evenings a week, offered delivery to the new and existing buildings in the area, and began carrying more daily staples (such as the aforementioned hot dog buns) in an attempt to be more of a full-service store. Most evenings, a handful of customers would come in during the extended hours and ultimately no one was interested in delivery. The new items we brought in collected dust, as the new residents for the most part were not interested in shopping at our store, and even worse they only served to confuse our established customer base, leaving them wondering what these items were doing on the shelves priced at full retail. In the end, the redevelopment of the area surrounding us hurt more than it helped. The surface level parking was where many of our customers parked while they worked downtown. After work they would stop by our store to shop before jumping in their cars and heading home. They were replaced by residents that wanted a more upscale store, not a discount store like Eisenberg’s.

    Ten years ago, our main competition was Cub and Rainbow. Since then, Walmarts have popped up all over the area with nearly full grocery departments, Target has expanded to sell groceries, Aldi’s has moved into the market, and even Menard’s sells groceries now. Our piece of the grocery pie has been slowly eaten away by a saturated market.

    The cost of doing business in St. Paul has increased exponentially over the last 10 years. The mayor and city council have continually made it difficult for businesses to succeed by treating us like their cash cows. Anyone who disagrees just needs to take a walk down 7th St. between Wall St. and Wacouta St. Once Twin City Magic and Costume is gone, there will be 3 continual blocks of empty retail spaces on the south side of 7th St. Add in the empty space left by Blink Bonnie and the other retail spaces that have never been occupied in Sibley Court, and it’s pretty apparent that doing business in downtown St. Paul is not an easy proposition.

    The combination of less merchandise to sell, lost customers due to the redevelopment of the area, the increased competition, and a city government that has done everything it can to push businesses away, hurt business to the point that we were teetering on the brink of losing money. The lost business due to the Light Rail construction was what pushed us over the edge.

    Every day as I drive to and from work and zigzag through detours, one-way streets condensed to one lane, and stoplights that take 3 cycles to get through, I wonder why anyone would want to put up with this to go shopping? Obviously the answer is that they don’t. Do we have torn up streets and heavy equipment sitting in the entry to our parking lot? No, but in a market with countless alternatives, I would probably choose to drive to one that you don’t have to traverse through the mess that is the LRT construction zone. If you had two choices in regard to your shopping, equally far apart and with similar offerings, and one was south of I-94 and one was north of I-94, which would you visit? Knowing full well that you would have to deal with detours, long stops at red lights, etc., the answer is the store that isn’t affected by the construction. Are we blaming the LRT for our business failing? No. Did it help matters? No. Our coffin had many nails, as Max was quoted as saying in the article, this was the last one.

    Thank you to all of our longtime customers, it will be a sad time for many of us to see the doors close. The store will be closing on Saturday, October 27th. Please stop in, say hello, and share your memories that span three and four generations.

  2. Looks like the Liquor Vault is moving into the old Eisenberg’s space, which is dissappointing given the potential of that location to be so much more…

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