Some shoppers were confused Thursday when they showed up at the Giant Eagle in Cuyahoga Falls only to learn it was no longer a traditional grocery store.
A steady stream of shoppers were in the know, however, showing up at the Howe Avenue location to pick up their groceries they had previously ordered online.
The Giant Eagle — near the Akron border in the Plaza at Chapel Hill — was converted into a center for curbside pickup and delivery services only, with the change taking effect this past Sunday. The grocery chain, based outside Pittsburgh, plans to open another such center April 19, converting its store in Garfield Heights.
Giant Eagle is making the changes in response to soaring demand for grocery pickup and delivery. And just because the store is not open for customers "doesn’t mean a lot of amazing work isn’t happening here," Dan Donovan, Giant Eagle director of corporate communications, said during a media tour of the center Thursday afternoon.
"Just from the efforts inside this Cuyahoga Falls Giant Eagle, we’re able to nearly double our capacity for online ordering [curbside pickup or delivery] for the entire Akron-Canton region," Donovan said.
As demand for pickup and delivery has grown, some Giant Eagle customers — like those of other groceries — have experienced frustration trying to secure desired pickup times.
The Falls store, one of about 100 in the chain’s Northeast Ohio market, is fulfilling hundreds of curbside pickups and home deliveries a day, officials said, adding they could not be more specific.
As he spoke, Giant Eagle employees plucked items from coolers, shelves and pallets to fill customers’ orders.
The employees use handheld devices with screens displaying customer orders. The workers scan each item; if they’ve chosen correctly, the device pings. Orders are filled shortly before pickup times, with frozen items gathered and then set aside in a freezer until the customer shows up.
With the conversion, the number of store employees has doubled to about 200. The typical store has about 100 to 150 employees, depending on size.
Customers place curbside pickup or delivery orders online at gianteagle.com/grocery or through the Giant Eagle grocery app.
Time slots are available from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Curbside pickup is free. The charge for same-day delivery is $9.95 and the charge for next-day delivery is $5.95.
Customers park in designated numbered parking spots in the lot outside the store, call a phone number listed on a sign and provide their spot number.
Larry Werney drove more than 15 miles from his home in northern Stark County to the store Thursday afternoon to pick up his groceries. A Giant Eagle employee told him he couldn’t get a pickup order fulfilled at a store closer to his home.
"It’s was an odyssey to say the least," he said pointing to the nameplate on his Honda Odyssey minivan.
"Once they got everything in gear," he said, "it worked out."
He ordered over the phone. Giant Eagle recommends ordering online, as there can be a long wait time to order over the phone.
The pharmacy in the Falls store remains open. A wood barrier has been erected, cordoning off an entrance to the pharmacy. The pharmacy drive-through also is open. Pharmacy hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m,. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
The store’s proximity to state Route 8, helped officials choose it as the fulfillment center to serve the Akron-Canton market.
It is the first fulfillment-center-only Giant Eagle store. The Garfield Heights store at 5744 Transportation Blvd. will be the second. There is a Giant Eagle store that remains open to shoppers and also has a fulfillment area in the Columbus surburb of Upper Arlington.
The Garfield Heights store will close to shoppers at the end of the business day April 17. It will reopen for curbside pickup April 19.
Giant Eagle, based in O’Hara Township, outside Pittsburgh, may open more fulfillment centers, as demand dictates, the company said.
Contact Katie Byard at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.