BALLSTON — A new supermarket on Route 50 will open its doors to shoppers Saturday, ending a long wait for a full-service supermarket in town and possibly starting a new wave of development in the area.
The 39,000-square-foot Hannaford supermarket is a milestone for the community as well as for its Maine-based owner — it is the chain's 50th location in New York state, out of a total of 182 supermarkets.
Doors will open at 7 a.m. with a spate of promotions and giveaways that will enrich the first 500 visitors anywhere from $5 to $500. There will also be a demonstration of the new store’s features, which include a drive-through pharmacy, full-service kitchen and cafe/meeting space.
The supermarket was announced in 2018 as the first project in a Planned Unit Development District on 76 acres of land owned by the Rossi Family. Previous proposals for the site included two different Walmart stores, one in 2004, the other a decade later.
Both were highly controversial due to their size — one would have been 500 percent larger than the new Hannaford, the other 350 percent larger. The proposals deeply divided area residents, some wanting the convenience and tax revenue of a big-box store, others not wanting the traffic congestion of a mass market retailer.
Ultimately, neither Walmart was built.
The supermarket proposal, by contrast, found widespread support. There is an Aldi market on the north side of the village of Ballston Spa, but it follows the chain’s typical model of low prices on a limited selection of goods. The village hasn’t had a full-line supermarket since 2001, when Grand Union pulled out of the Route 50 building that now houses Ocean State Job Lot.
The nearest supermarkets are about 10 minutes away in Malta and Milton.
“I think that a lot of residents have wanted a convenient grocery store for a long time,” said Ballston Spa Mayor Larry Woolbright. “I think most people are going to Malta or Milton Center.”
The new supermarket fills that gap, he said, even though it’s just outside the village.
And he doesn’t think it will compete with merchants in downtown Ballston Spa the way a general merchandiser like Walmart might have.
“We have more specialty local type stuff in our downtown,” Woolbright said.
His only regret is that the new Hannaford will pay town instead of village property taxes. Ballston Town Supervisor Tim Szczepaniak likes the new store for that very reason — it will help keep the town’s tax rates down.
But he also likes it for practical reasons. He said he had been in favor of the Walmart proposals because they would have brought a grocery store into town, and he’s excited about Hannaford for the same reason.
“The residents really, really wanted this for quite some time. I’ve knocked on these doors multiple times,” he said of past campaigns for town office. “They have said very clearly they wanted a grocery store.”
The stretch of Route 50 just south of the village has seen other retail development in recent years, including McDonald’s, convenience store and bank buildings, plus sidewalks to help people get to them safely, a new traffic light and turn lane on Route 50, and a looping connector road between Route 67 and Route 50.
Szczepaniak expects more to come, as the 76 acre development district contains 35 developable acres.
“It’s the right location for that,” he said. “There’s definitely room for growth there.”