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    COMPETITIVE WATCH:

    Family Fare supermarkets add gas.

    BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Since being acquired by Spartan Stores in 2003, Family Fare Stores, a chain of supermarkets located here, has gotten more competitive within the grocery industry. Now, the company is introducing gas stations and convenience stores next to all their supermarkets, the Grand Rapids Press reported.

    All future supermarkets will be equipped with the Quick Stop convenience stores as well, according to Jeanne Norcross, spokeswoman for Spartan Stores. In addition to the convenience stores, pharmacies will be included in new locations as well, both making large investments into these new properties.

    "The customer really has come to expect it," she told the paper.

    Although she did not disclose if the company will move exiting stores that don't have the capacity for a convenience store/gas station, she did mention that no new Family Fare will be built without one. Norcross added that the Family Fare gas stations will have the latest technology that allows customers to redeem gas coupons received while shopping.

    At least four Quick Stops already exist, one each in Cedar Springs, Grand Rapids, Zeeland and Holland, Mich.

    Adding more stores, however, has become problematic. Spartan Stores asked the Wyoming Planning Department to approve a gas station near its Family Fare in Rogers Plaza, but was rejected due to specific regulations on gas stations that require its placement on a corner of an intersection, with one of the roads being a main thoroughfare, the Press reported.

    "We told them 'no,' and they walked away," City Planning director Gerald Mears told the paper.

    In other communities that resisted the proposal, including Allendale, Byron and Plainfield townships, the company closed existing stores and moved to an accommodating site nearby.

    In Byron Township, however, planning commissioners told the paper that plans to move the store need more study and consideration. A work session will be held tomorrow to further discuss details. After, the project will be proposed to the Planning Commission for a decision at its regular Nov. 20 meeting.

    "There are a lot of questions. This is a lot different from what we thought this might look like [when the original development was approved]," said commission chairman Seymour Gould.

    In Allendale Township, moving the store became a matter of location. Developers working for Spartan wanted to move the store further from the main business district, which was opposed by planners. Township Supervisor James Beelen told the paper there were serious negotiations with the developer -- even causing Spartan to state that the lack of a Quick Stop might make any store in the area not viable. A compromise was finally reached, allowing a new supermarket and convenience store to be built on the site of Allendale Christian School, which will relocate close by.

    Norcross defended the chains plans, stating that the chain must keep up with major competitors such as Meijer, Wal-Mart and Costco, which all feature similar amenities.

    However, not all agree that this is the correct move. "They're all competing, but they all want to look the same," Beelen told the paper.

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