Pan's grocery store plans to expand

South Oak Park grocer may buy vacant building next door

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By MARTY STEMPNIAK

A local grocery store could expand in the near future by purchasing a long-vacant building from the Village of Oak Park.

Pan's Food Center-located on South Oak Park Avenue just north of the Eisenhower-has made a bid on the empty building next door. The village owns the property, which has sat vacant since 2005.

Two people bid on the building in September, offering the minimum of $325,000. Village staff is recommending selling 828 to Pan's.

"The grocery store is an anchor to the commercial area," said Bob Clements, redevelopment manager for the village. "Expanding it is a good thing."

Pan's co-owner Jim Vlahos declined to comment to Wednesday Journal on Monday. The 22-year-old grocery owner plans to use the 4,800-square-foot space to expand its store, Clements said. The sale terms forbid Pan's from demolishing the 828 building.

The sale still needs approval by the village board. Village Manager Tom Barwin says that could happen in the next 30 days.

Louis Scannicchio, who also owns the Avenue Ale House building across the street, was the other bidder. He, too, offered the appraised value of $325,000, and planned to revamp the space and use it for retail or a restaurant, Barwin said. But village staff chose Pan's because their idea was more concrete and the village wants to keep the store here.

"Economic development 101 is retention, retention, retention, and most neighborhoods would die for a little supermarket," Barwin said.

Proceeds from the sale would likely go to paying off debt from building parking garages, Barwin said.

Both Scanicchio and Pan's made a bid on the property back in late 2007. Scanicchio had the same plan back then. But Pan's wanted to demolish 828 and put a parking lot in its place, which the village won't allow.

Scanicchio offered $400,000 for the building at the time. But asbestos and an old oil tank needed to be removed from the site, which delayed the sale. And when the economy tanked, the property's value dipped and he lowered his offer. A call to Scanicchio's office Monday was not returned by press time.

The village asked for a new round of bids in September, got back two responses again, and this time chose Pan's new plan.

The village first purchased the 828 building in 2001 for $350,000. It was formerly The Southern movie theater and later a Rexall Drug Store (Avenue Pharmacy). The space has been empty since an art gallery vacated it in 2005.

"It's a great business move by them, and I think hopefully will help improve the shopping environment in the neighborhood," Barwin said. "It should be a nice boost to Pan's."

CONTACT: mstempniak@wjinc.com

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