Sun Fresh at Red Bridge Shopping Center closed Saturday, January 28.

Lane4 discusses future of Sun Fresh building before a packed crowd

“The pendulum is now swinging back to big stores.”

By Don Bradley

The owner of Red Bridge Shopping Center did his best Tuesday night to assure a crowded room that every effort would be made to find a new grocery tenant for the recently-closed Sun Fresh store.

Then came the “But if…”, and that brought groans.

“No!” No!” “We want a grocery store!” “We need a grocery store!”

A clear consensus. No other retail, no service industry, not another restaurant. The grocery store went up with Red Bridge Shopping Center back in 1959 as a grocery store and neighbors want it to stay that way.

Owen Buckley, president of Lane4 Property Group which owns the center at 11212 Holmes Road, told the full house at the Center Planning and Development Council meeting that he is talking with every grocery operator in the region.

Owen Buckley, CEO of Lane4 Property Group, spoke before a crowd at the Center Planning and Development Council meeting Tuesday, January 31. Photo by Bill Rankin

“You name it, we’ve talked to them,” Buckley said. “It’s not like we’re sitting on our hands.”

The problem, he said, is that the growth period of smaller “niche” grocers, such as Trader Joe’s and Sprouts, has run its course.

“The pendulum is now swinging back to big stores,” Buckley said.

Which the old Sun Fresh site is not. The building is 35,000 square feet. By comparison, the Henhouse store in Leawood, is 90,000 square feet, more than two and a half times what Red Bridge can offer.

Buckley said he would continue to talk with Sprouts, Aldi and Trader Joe’s. Someone in the audience asked about the possibility of Walmart putting in one of its smaller neighborhood markets.

“I talked to Walmart today,” Buckley told the audience, adding that he had also talked to Aldi on Tuesday.

Ideally, Buckley said, he would like a grocery store befitting the neighborhood.

“Like Brookside has the Brookside Market, I would like to see the Red Bridge Market,” Buckley said.

He also said Lane4 would consider tearing down the old building and putting up a new, much larger store, such as what Hen House or HyVee would require, perhaps even facing it north toward the rest of the shopping center.

Balls Food Stores closed the grocery store on January 28.

Then he talked about the challenge of selling the big boys that the Red Bridge neighborhood is a growth area. That was the problem with Balls Food, which operated the Sun Fresh store. The company, Buckley said, did not see the area as one worthy of costly enhancements.

They particularly didn’t like that it offered few shoppers to the east because of the golf course and park land. Lane4 grew frustrated with Balls’ reluctance to remodel the store.

Buckley rejects that Red Bridge is not a growth area, but acknowledged that too many residents were using Sun Fresh as a convenience store.

At one point, Buckley mentioned the possibility of apartments on the site.

That really brought in groans.

“But don’t worry,” he said. “We’re in for this community.”

6 thoughts on “Lane4 discusses future of Sun Fresh building before a packed crowd

  1. I thought Owen did an excellent job on covering everything going on at the center including the purchase of the library building. Critical of the CVS and open to acquiring the US Bank if it comes available. The store could be as large as 55k ft. If you were there you left very satisfied on the efforts being implemented. I think the disappointment here is that the Ball Family let us down and never made a true effort. They ran it like an inner city store and an embarrassment and didn’t ever give it a chance.

    1. David Ball has never, in any instance, been genuine. They owned the Price Chopper at 85th and Wornall. They may or may not still own it now. If the Balls do, it took them 20 years to fulfill promises made to Waldo to make that store into a decent one. Finally, they did. Good thing Balls left Red Bridge or we could have been waiting 20 years to get anything out of them. I too thought Owen was forthcoming and genuine with his discussion last night. I trust him to do the right thing for Red Bridge. He made good on his word 6yrs ago and now the Center is thriving again. Not every developer would even bother to tell neighbors much less solicit their input. I appreciate Owen and Lane 4 improving the area.

  2. My mom lives in the area and bemoans its closing, but it was a convenience store for many, and margins in the grocery biz are small. Prices were higher than in the big stores, and she basically used it as a store to pick up a few things between bigger trips. When I would run in there to pick up things for her, I saw very few full carts. Lots of small ones, and lines were never long. It was a nice convenience for people who lived close by, but without volume, any chain that comes in is likely to struggle.

  3. I wanted to like the Sun Fresh and we made several efforts to do a week’s worth of shopping there but they were not set up for large orders. The few times we did it the checker looked at us like we were crazy on top of the high prices. They needed to do something to not make it smell like sewage in the afternoons. Hard to get people to buy a lot of food when it smells bad. I hope ALDI comes in. This area is starved for an ALDI.

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