Chastain Parks said when the new grocery store opens in the Shoppes of Kearney, it will have the same family-owned atmosphere — just bigger and with a different look — as the one his family has been operating in town for the past three and a half decades.
Tim Harris, president of Star Development, is optimistic a new Price Chopper grocery store will open in Kearney before the end of the year. He announced that earlier this month.
It will be owned and operated by the Parks family, who currently own Big V Country Mart in Kearney and Smithville.
“We will not own the building. We will lease the building, but we will own the Price Chopper,” Parks said. “And it won’t be any different than this store here, just a different banner on the front — different name.”
Parks, who operates the Kearney store and will operate the new Price Chopper, said the sign above the doors will read “Big V Price Chopper.”
“Big V is going to exist,” Parks said, noting other stores have names in front of Price Chopper like “Cosentino’s.” “The ‘Big V’ is Dad’s name for them.”
“The ‘Big V’ comes from ‘Big Value,’” Parks said.
He said the moniker started with the Big Value store his father, Bill Parks, opened in Smithville in 1962.
“It didn’t take long for everybody over there to start calling it ‘Big V,’ so that’s how he incorporated it,” Chastain said.
Chastain opened Big V in Kearney in 1976.
Like John Knipker, owner of John’s Super, which is closing this month, Chastain grew up in the grocery business. His father opened Bill’s Market in Richmond in 1952. It was across the street from the elementary school where Chastain attended.
“I’d get on a pop crate and I’d run the cash register when I was about 8 or 9 years old — been doing it a long time,” he said.
Chastain Parks said whenever he says “we,” he is talking about the shareholders of the Big V Country Mart company, which includes himself, his brother, Berry, who runs the Smithville store, and their mother, Martha.
A new era
Chastain said Harris approached the Parkses several years ago about opening a store in the proposed Shoppes of Kearney.
“We had the option of doing it or not. If we didn’t, then it was fair game for anybody, and there’s been a lot of interest in Kearney in that location by several of the big guns in Kansas City,” Chastain said. “So my brother and I felt like that we almost didn’t have any other choice.”
He said they could try to compete with an outside grocer coming to town, but it would be difficult. Big V Country Mart, like John’s Super, is just 26,000 square feet. Early in the tax-increment-financing process that would ultimately allow the Shoppes of Kearney development, Harris said the grocery store anchor tenant would take up about 65,000 square feet, but Parks said recently it would be a 55,000-square-foot store.
Parks said bigger can be better when it comes to marketing groceries.
“You’re limited with what you can carry, and you’re limited with how you can merchandise it. … I’ve got several items that I’ve only got one facing on, and we sell a little bit of it, which is great, but that’s no way to sell groceries,” Parks said.
He said the new store will likely offer more products, particularly in the raw meat section.
“With increased volume, which we’re going to have to do … you just can become more competitive all through the store,” Parks said.
He said he’s still working out the details with Associated Wholesale Grocers, the food distributor for Price Chopper and other area grocers, about some other offerings like fresh seafood. Products like that are costly and labor intensive, he said.
Already, Parks is anticipating increasing staff from the little more than 60 he currently employs to up to 90 for the new store.
Big V did place a classified advertisement in The Kearney Courier recently to hire employees for all departments, and Parks said that was to fill immediate need. With John’s Super closing, Parks said he didn’t want to be understaffed if there was a significant increase in customers.
“I have always looked, not just at John’s, but at Liberty as our main competition,” Parks said.
He also thinks about the grocery options in Excelsior Springs. That puts multiple Price Chopper grocery stores, Super Walmart stores, a Hy-Vee and a Super Target nearby for Kearney residents to go to when they buy groceries.
“Plenty of competition within about 10 miles,” he said.
With the new store, though, Parks said he hopes more people will keep their grocery money in Kearney.
The new Price Chopper will be located in the Shoppes of Kearney, a tax-increment financing project at the southeast corner of Missouri Highway 92 and Interstate 35. Construction has not started yet, but Harris expects to submit a final plat and site plans to the city of Kearney soon. He said he expects the new grocery store to be open “around Thanksgiving.”
Parks said his current landlord, who is also his cousin, has been forgiving. Big V’s lease expired last August, but the grocer has been allowed to remain there on a month-to-month basis as it prepares to transition to the new location later this year.
Chastain said he has heard several rumors about himself and his store the past few months. Among those rumors is that he plans to retire.
“They’re completely wrong,” Parks said. “I don’t anticipate retiring, but, who knows? I could have health issues that would just make it easier to step it away from the business. It’s possible that a few years down the road, like Don Corleone said, we get ‘an offer we can’t refuse,’ but we don’t anticipate that.”
And Chastain is no Don of a grocery mafia.
“I’ve heard rumors and all kinds of stuff that we somehow had something to do with John’s closing. We did not own that building. We had nothing at all to do about it,” Parks said.
Parks and Knipker spent the past 25 years competing for grocery business in Kearney, but that doesn’t mean there were any ill wishes.
“Anytime you lose a business, it’s not a good thing,” Chastain said.
Kearney Editor Kevin M. Smith can be reached at 628-6010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.