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Mobile Market Begins Service in Duquesne

By Tom Leturgey
The Tube City Almanac
March 21, 2024
Posted in: Duquesne News

Shoppers explore the Giant Eagle Mobile Market during its first visit to Duquesne on Sunday. The market will return every Sunday afternoon for 90 minutes, bringing fresh and packaged foods. (Tom Leturgey photo for Tube City Almanac)

Grocery shopping in Duquesne has gotted a little more convenient. Giant Eagle’s Mobile Market made its first stop in the city on Sunday.

On a sunny, 47-degree afternoon, the Mobile Market swung into the Duquesne Plaza Shopping Center just off Route 837. Giant Eagle’s Gwen Johnson and driver Ryan Mancini jumped out of the truck that pulled the trailer, pulled out retractable ramps at designated “Entrance” and “Exit” points and within minutes were ready for residents who stopped in for essentials.

The mobile market is scheduled to return every Sunday afternoon for 90 minutes.

Johnson, who runs the day-to-day operations for the Mobile Market, had just wrapped up its Sunday stop in Rankin Borough. The grocery store on wheels now has 11 stops on its weekly schedule, including outside of the Glen Hazel High Rise and Second Avenue in Hazelwood. Some spots, like Rankin, have about twenty shoppers a week, while others welcome 60 or more.

A slow but steady group of residents stopped out on St. Patrick’s Day for food.

If they are interested in the program, communities reach out to the region’s largest grocery retailer and ask about being added to the route.

In this case, leaders in Duquesne contacted Melinda Gaus from Giant Eagle’s Community Relations & Development Department. She’s in charge of getting things set, like partnering with 412 Food Rescue and other providers for communities that are sometimes called “food deserts” because they have few or no fresh-food markets.

“I love it,” said Duquesne City Councilman Derek Artim, who stopped by for the debut. “It’s great for the community. The city just needs to embrace it.” Artim said he hopes that the mobile market will draw attention to the larger shopping plaza, which has few operating businesses in addition to Scott Schricker’s district magistrate office.

(Tom Leturgey photo for Tube City Almanac)

The Mobile Market first visited Rankin and stopped at nearby Giant Eagle locations, such as the Kennywood Giant Eagle in West Mifflin, to replenish. Then it was off to Duquesne. Johnson says that there’s a chance that future stops in Duquesne might be pushed back to 1:30 p.m., just to allow for the market’s small crew to re-stock and ready for its next stop.

Johnson explained that there are more than 800 items in the trailer. The price of produce is half-off, but it is picked that morning from the company’s warehouse near Bridgeville. The food is regular retail price, with no mark-up. Some of the most popular selections are prepared foods and deli items.

There is no “hot food” selection, but sandwiches and other ready-to-go food are available. There’s also a small freezer onboard.

“We have as many sale items as possible,” Johnson added. There is also a great deal of customer service. Customers looking for certain brands can request the item for the next week. For example, the mobile market doesn’t carry a lot of fresh fish; however, if the demand is there, it can be added to the inventory.

Conversely, Johnson said that if a certain product isn’t moving, it can be cycled out of the inventory. “We get a lot of suggestions,” she continued.

(Tom Leturgey photo for Tube City Almanac)

Mancini and others who work on the mobile market can shop for customers, especially for those who ride wheelchairs to the site. Some residents did use their wheelchairs on the first day of operation. Mancini will also take items like cases of water to nearby cars if needed.

“I think it’s great,” said Mancini, who has been driving the truck since the beginning of the program. The Woodland Hills graduate has family in Duquesne and surrounding areas, so he says he feels like he’s “giving back to the community.”

The mobile market helps supply a need, especially for residents who cannot travel far. Although the Kennywood Giant Eagle is only two miles away, the Shop n’ Save in the Homeville Shopping Center suddenly closed last year, leaving a void in shopping for necessities. There have been no fresh food stores within the city since a Save-a-Lot supermarket closed in 2020.

Right now, the market only goes to stops in Allegheny County, but there have been inquiries to Westmoreland. This is currently the only Giant Eagle mobile market.

The mobile market accepts EBT cards and other forms of payment, all but cash. There is no cash on the premises. In addition, the mobile market is not equipped with plastic or paper bags. Shoppers “borrow” reusable bags for free, in hopes that they will be returned the next time out.

Originally published March 21, 2024.

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