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Bold Step Fills Retailing Void

November 22, 1987

A new, perhaps unique, retailing experience which began last weekend in Southeast San Diego augurs well, not only for that long-neglected community but for bold public-private cooperation as well.

The Gateway Marketplace is a 55,000-square-foot grocery-warehouse store employing 125 people, most from the nearby minority neighborhood. The largest retailing establishment to open in Southeast in more than a decade, this nonprofit store sprang from a $3.5-million donation from Price Club founder Sol Price.

Not surprisingly, the store is modeled in many ways on that highly successful, no-frills chain. It sells at low prices all manner of merchandise--from food to tires--displayed in open boxes and along high, austere shelves. Even operational guidance for Gateway is being provided by managers on leave from the Price Club.

A difference is that Gateway is a public, not a membership, store, and, further, items are sold in normal sizes, not the huge wholesale-sized quantities so familiar to Price Club shoppers.

But more significantly, the store is located where other entrepreneurs feared to tread.

Despite many requests, no mainline supermarket would establish an outlet in Southeast, even though that store long has been wanted and needed by residents and sought by city officials as a linchpin of Southeast's nascent revitalization.

Sol Price moved boldly and innovatively to fill that void, illustrating not with words but with action the noblest spirit of American business.

Equally promising for the long run, the Gateway Marketplace shares its building with the nonprofit San Diego College of Retailing, where local students--in conjunction with the store--study retail operations.

The battle is not yet won, of course. The consumers must support Gateway, the students must work earnestly and well, and the city must push ahead vigorously with other Southeast projects that will complement the effort.

But in the meantime, that community's hopes grow as does the esteem in which Sol Price is held.

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