Perry Hill Place Revitalized

By on 5 December, 2011 in City Living, Kate and Stephen, Shopping with 4 Comments

A truly massive pomegranate

Usually, when a shopping center gets abandoned, it’s a sad story.

Not this time.

When the Birmingham-based Bruno’s supermarket chain filed for bankruptcy in 2009, it was the end of the big grocery store that anchored the Perry Hill Place shopping center at the intersection of Perry Hill Road and Carmichael Road. The departure of Bruno’s not only left a gaping hole, it meant that the only things really in that prime real estate were the Chappy’s Deli and the Christian Science Reading Room.

Although we have spent time in both of those fine establishments, those two tenants were unable to distract the eyes of passers-by from the enormous empty building left by the Bruno’s failure. Concern was abundant that the entire shopping center was on thin ice and not only was there mourning for the lost jobs, but nobody wanted the space to attract the payday lenders and pawn shops that plague some of the city’s other large shopping centers on the Boulevard.

The Bruno’s bankruptcy filing in 2009 happened around the same time that we, for totally unrelated reasons, had decided that it wasn’t worth it for us to drive out to the Fresh Market to do our grocery shopping. Not only was it a long drive for us, but the store seemed cramped and although we were squarely in its target demographic (upper middle class vegetarian health food eaters who are willing to pay premium prices for quality groceries), we had a series of shopping trips there that were less than satisfactory. There was so much candy and wine, and so little of things we really wanted to buy (even though they did have killer jalapeno cheese bread and organic potatoes). As such, we did most of our grocery acquisition at some combination of Publix and Winn-Dixie (with this year’s addition of the rare trip to the east side to Earth Fare).

And now, out of these two negatives comes an overwhelming positive. Fresh Market has moved from its old location (on the Boulevard at Vaughn) into the old Bruno’s location. And with it have come two new stores (a pet supply store and a pizza place). And the two of the three that we have visited are fantastic (we haven’t tried the Marco’s Pizza yet).

The new Fresh Market location pretty much judo flips all of our objections to the previous location. The greatly increased floor space of the new store has improved everything from layout to merchandise variety. The produce section is larger. It’s become, suddenly, a lunch option with its excellent salad bar and expanded carry-out food options (sushi, salads and more, all at reasonable prices for the Montgomery lunch scene). There is a good cheese selection, an expanded bulk food zone (though it’s still not as good as Earth Fare’s) and happily diminished candy and wine areas. There were several moments when we looked at each other with raised eyebrows and just said things like, “We really ought to start shopping here.” It’s much closer to a Whole Foods type of experience, not as far away as Earth Fare, and a welcome addition to Midtown.

Next door is a pet supply store, the creatively-named Pet Supermarket. We like shopping at non-chain, locally-owned places (such as Wet Pets over on McGehee Rd.), but it is nice to have another option. Midtown’s got a lot of pets, so surely we can sustain more than one pet store. This one’s awfully nice. It’s got a massive selection of pet foods, treats and toys. We got our dog a softball-sized tennis ball that is immediately her favorite possession. The store also has some pets, ranging from icky (huge scorpions, lizards, tiny terrifying snakes) to furry (ferrets, some mice and rats). The hours are good, too – it’s open till 9 on weekdays, 10 on Saturdays and 7 on Sundays for evenings when you absolutely need a pet supply and don’t want to drag yourself out to the Petco on the Boulevard. Evidently they gave away a lot of stuff this opening weekend, including a bunch of free dog food, hot dogs and fish.

When Marco’s is open, we’ll go back and try the pizza. Until then, we’re happy to report on this true story of economic development redemption. Perry Hill Place shopping center is a phoenix rising from the ashes of the Bruno’s departure. It’s good news for Montgomery.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a cat, a dog, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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There Are 4 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Jay Croft says:

    I’m really glad that these stores opened. Closer to my home and best of all, one can enter and leave the parking lot without the bumper-car drama at the old location. Getting back onto Vaughn Rd. after visiting the old Fresh Market is no longer a life-threatening experience!

  2. John Pugh says:

    Now I wish the same kind of turn around would occur at the shopping center at the corner of Bell and Vaughn. When Bruno’s left it , it declined sharply in spite of being surrounded by thriving neighborhoods. Perhaps Kroger could be coaxed to enter the Montgomery market

  3. John, who owns that center? Perhaps they could be persuaded to meet with neighbors and other concerned citizens to discuss/brainstorm improvement ideas. Owner cannot be benefitting from vacancy.

  4. Jay, I agree. TJ Maxx is one of my fav’s and I don’t go there nearly much as I would if it were easier to access! The situation, I believe, is a byproduct of Montgomery’s laissez faire approach to planning.

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