Dave Cooper was fuming, positively fuming.

Dave Cooper was fuming, positively fuming.

"It's a bummer, just a bummer," he said last week. "I'm disappointed.

"I just think we take one step forward and two steps back."

The president of the Northland Area Business Association was reacting to the announcement from Giant Eagle that the Pittsburgh-based grocery chain would close three central Ohio stores March 4, including the one at 1000 E. Dublin-Granville Road.

The step forward Cooper cited was the Oct. 19 opening of a new 108,000-square-foot Kroger store at 1745 Morse Road in Northland Village. The new supermarket, which replaces a 60,000-square-foot store not far away on Morse Road, represented a $21.5 million investment.

The step backward, as far as Cooper was concerned, is the planned closure of the Giant Eagle that has served the neighborhood since the company built the store in 2001.

The announcement was another blow for what was once the Northland area's main business corridor, one which has increasingly become the focus of revitalization efforts by neighborhood leaders.

Northland Community Council President Emmanuel V. Remy vowed to work with Steven R. Schoeny, director of the Columbus Department of Development, to plug the hole that will be created when the Giant Eagle goes dark.

Remy suggested the store's closing will create a "food desert" for those living in the immediate area, but one that he hopes will soon became an oasis.

"Somebody's going to come in, I would think," Remy said at last week's NCC meeting. "We'll be working on that. It almost certainly means more business for Kroger."

"I hope we are fortunate enough to find another grocery tenant that can use the facility," Cooper said.

The business group leader said he doubts the new Kroger store was the reason for the Giant Eagle executives' decision.

"There's got to be more to it than we know, in my opinion," Cooper said. "I'm disappointed that it had come down that way. I don't believe it's overly damaging. It's one of those things."

"That store has struggled to keep up with the times," Remy said. "When you don't keep up and refresh your image, you can expect your store to be a lower-performing store."

Chris Boring, an independent retail consultant in Columbus, said he could understand Giant Eagle's decision to close its store at 777 Neil Ave. because one of the firm's Marketplace stores opened a few years ago nearby on West Third Avenue.

Shuttering the East Dublin-Granville Road site is a bit more puzzling, he admitted.

"That one's a little tougher to figure," Boring said. "Of course I'm not privy to their sales data, but I would assume they're basing it on something they've seen in terms of declining revenues."

The new Kroger location may have figured into the decision, according to Boring.

"That could be a factor as well," he said. "It's a little unusual, though, because Giant Eagle doesn't back down from competition."

Demographics also might have played a role, the consultant said. In doing some research in the neighborhood immediately around the East Dublin-Granville Road store, Boring said he found the median household income is 22 percent under the average for the entire state. In addition, he said, the poverty level for that part of the Northland neighborhood is 24 percent, compared with 16 percent for all of Ohio.

"Giant Eagle as a company has made a move, I would say, toward more upscale stores," Boring said. "I think the company overall is kind of moving in an upscale direction and leaving this other market behind for Kroger."

Boring said he did not have enough information to speculate whether another supermarket might take the place of the Northland Giant Eagle.

Remy said the closing might create an opportunity for major redevelopment at a crucial intersection for the city.

"In some ways, I think it's a bigger opportunity if the property becomes available," he said. "With the Continent and some of the hotel spaces along in there, if we can do something bigger like we've been talking to the city about at that intersection, it would be a better use of the land."

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1