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New owners to take over Dowagiac Save-a-Lot

Published 6:27pm Thursday, January 9, 2014

While it may be hard to tell from the outside, big changes will be coming to the Dowagiac Save-a-Lot store in early February, as ownership of the wallet-friendly grocery market will change hands.

Staring on Feb. 9, Freeman Family Enterprises will take over operations of the North Front Street store, purchasing the business from current owner Ed Walters. The Dowagiac location is one of three Save-a-Lot stores the company will take over, along with ones in Paw Paw and Allegan.

“We started having conversations with [Walters] last fall, and over the past four months we were able to finalize a deal,” said Tim Freeman, owner of Freeman Family Enterprises.

Save-a-Lot’s current customer base won’t be in for any major surprises once the changeover occurs, as the new owners plan to maintain the same general layout and appearance the store currently has, Freeman said.

“Our plans are to come in and upgrade the store,” he said. “We’ll make some changes, but it will continue to be a Save-a-Lot store and will continue to offer meat, produce and groceries at low prices.”

One area where Freeman Enterprises will focus their attention is the store’s selection of fresh meats and produce, which the owner said is a priority for all the stores they operate.

Dowagiac and the other two Save-a-Lot stores will be overseen by Carl Musselman, one of the district managers with Freeman’s company. The company is already in the process of finding new store managers for the grocery markets, as well as sitting down with current employees to give them a chance to be hired into the new business.

The new owners are only purchasing the Save-a-Lot business from Walters, who will retain ownership of the actual real estate, Freeman said.

Freeman, who owns the business alongside his brothers, Tom and Paul, currently owns and operates 19 Save-a-Lot stores throughout Michigan, predominantly in the Northern and Central regions of the state. Freeman Enterprises, headquartered in Gaylord, Mich., has expanded its legion of grocery markets through not only acquisitions but also by opening new Save-a-Lot locations as well, Freeman said.

“Save-a-Lot offers groceries at low prices that resonate with our customers, especially in these tough economic times,” Freeman said.

Freeman and his brothers are third-generation grocers, as their grandfather, C. Glen Catt, founded the Glen’s Markets chain of grocery stores in 1951. The trio purchased their first Save-a-Lot stores from their father and uncle in 1999, after the family’s 26 Glen’s locations were purchased by SpartanNash.

Freeman’s grandfather was delighted to hear that his grandsons were purchasing the three stores in southwestern Michigan, the owner said. Glen used to be a resident of Paw Paw, and worked at the city’s Kroger grocery store before moving to Gaylord to establish his own business.

“Being third generation grocers, we are continuing the same values that our grandfather had, treating our associates fairly and making sure our customers are well taken care of,” Freeman said.

One of the things that Freeman said attracted him and his brothers to the Dowagiac store in particular was that the city felt similar to the markets the company already serves, particularly those near its headquarters in northern Michigan.

“We’re excited to be a part of the Dowagiac community,” Freeman said. “We look forward to serving the store’s customers for years to come.”

Representatives with the current Save-a-Lot ownership were not available for comment.

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