By Jon Delano

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Tuesday was the last day for the Shop ‘n Save in the Hill District, a store once considered vital to the neighborhood.

The Hill District’s Shop ‘n Save shut its doors a day earlier than expected, employees said.

Photo Credit: KDKA

“I didn’t even know they were closing, so I walk in there and they was like you know the store is closing. There’s no hot food,” said Derek Gordon of McKeesport who stopped buy get a hot lunch.

When the store opened in 2013, it was a dream come true for many.

“For maybe 30 years or so this was considered a food desert,” Pittsburgh city councilman Daniel Lavelle, who represents the Hill, told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Tuesday.

“So myself, along with Representative Wheatley and others, fought really hard to insure that this community had a full service grocery store, so to now see it go is sad.”

Lavelle’s sentiment was echoed by many.

“Waited a long time to get a supermarket , and now we’ve had it for a few years and it’s gone, and it makes it hard because a lot of the citizens are seniors in this area,” noted Gwen Wilson of the Hill District.

What went wrong depends on whom you ask.

“I had heard that there was a high level of theft, for one thing,” says Wilson.

Lavelle acknowledged that but also blamed mismanagement.

“Part of it was just poor management. We had an operator who wasn’t really willing to adjust to the needs of the community,” said the councilman.

Lavelle cited garbage strewn about, inadequate products and produce, untrained staff, and often only one check-out line.

Still, residents want another store there.

“I think Aldi’s or something cheaper could be great up here,” says Jasmin Jones of the Hill District.

Local elected officials, including Mayor Bill Peduto, are trying to find a new store owner.

“I’m not at liberty to release any names, but I can tell you we’ve actively reached out to a number of different operators, some of whom have expressed interest in this place,” said Lavelle.

So how long until another grocery store comes to this spot in the Hill District?

Councilman Lavelle says, six months at the earliest, but more likely, 2020 or later.

But there is reason for great optimism will come here eventually.

The redevelopment of the Civic Arena site will create a large market of new supermarket shoppers.

“The Lower Hill is anticipating another 2,000 residents coming to the site. There’s potential for adding new housing directly behind this grocery store,” says the councilman.

But no word yet on which grocery chain will take advantage of that.