Construction is underway at the site of the former Toys R Us in Roseville.

Construction is underway at the site of the former Toys R Us in Roseville.

Photo by Brian Wells

Grocer taking over former Toys R Us site in Roseville

City can’t confirm site will be an Amazon Fresh

By: Brian Wells | Roseville-Eastpointe Eastsider | Published July 13, 2022


ROSEVILLE — Rumors have been circulating in Roseville about what the former Toys R Us building might become.

In June, Crain’s Detroit Business wrote an article all but confirming that the building was being turned into an Amazon Fresh, a physical version of the e-commerce company’s grocery delivery website.

A Roseville location would add to several others in the metro Detroit area. Amazon Fresh locations have been confirmed by officials in Troy, Shelby Township and Rochester Hills.

A copy of a building permit that had been issued April 12, 2022, and construction plans for the property were obtained by the Eastsider through a FOIA request; however, they didn’t confirm many details.

The building permit issued for the property, which is located at 32070 Gratiot Ave. in Roseville, lists Roseville South LLC as the property’s owner. The description of work on the permit includes “alteration of a 42,291 square-foot building” with work including the exterior facade, loading dock, roof and site modifications.

Glenn Sexton, Roseville’s building director, said that while permits had been pulled and work was being done, none of the paperwork identified who the new tenant would be.

“I would think this is intentional,” Sexton said. “It’s something that they’re doing not to identify who it is, because normally they would list that right on the plans and you would see it on the elevations of the building.”

The permit lists three footing inspections being performed on the building — the first on May 24, the second on June 16 and the third on June 17. Sexton said the inspections were for new truck wells being installed on the back of the building.

The plans for the building list Moschouris Management and Development Co. as the landlord developer, and the pages are labeled “Grocery Conversion Construction Plans.” However, William Gershenson, a representative for the company whose contact information was listed in the plans, stated that they could not provide any details on the project due to a confidentiality agreement with their tenant.

Sexton confirmed that the store would be a retail grocer. Because it would remain a retail business, nothing was required to be brought before the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

“Toys R Us was a retail use,” Sexton said. “The grocer that they stated is what their build out is, is a retail use, so it’s no change in use. It would not have required to go through a site plan review. It would have just been a permit review internally.”

According to property records found on the city’s Assessing Department website, in June 2021, Roseville South LLC paid $1.8 million for the property.

A representative from Amazon said in an email that the company doesn’t comment on its future store roadmap.

NORR, the architects listed in the plans, did not respond to a media inquiry.


Amazon Fresh could mean bad news for local competitors
Dave Makar, chief customer officer at Rosie, a service aimed at helping local grocers sell online by offering delivery and pickup options, said that while Amazon Fresh brings high-quality and low-cost products to communities, it can be a formidable competitor for local grocers.

“Amazon has nearly 100% name recognition and nearly 150 million Prime users,” he said in an email. “For community members, I would expect shoppers to try out Amazon’s store out of both curiosity and potential self-interest of lower prices or special discounts from Amazon Prime membership.”

Amazon is a part of peoples’ lives through its various services, such as Prime Video and Audible, so when a brick-and-mortar store opens, some shoppers will want to go just to look around the store, Makar said.

“There’s a perception’s ease of use will translate over to ease of the in-person shopping experience,” he said.

Despite the ease of shopping, some consumers favor supporting local businesses when they understand the ways a local grocer engages with the environment and community. When they are transparent with the details of their business practices, people want to support them, Makar said.

But while a big-box store may seem imposing, there are ways for local grocers to compete. They generally offer high-quality, fresh, local and prepared foods, and they can lead in the marketplace on service and local support, Makar said.

“People love their locally owned stores, and local stores absolutely can compete and win,” he said.

He added that communities and community grocers historically have strong connections, which offers them a unique opportunity to strengthen their ties with local schools and service organizations.

Sexton said it would mean a lot to the city to have the building repurposed.

“Obviously, any vacant building, whether it’s big or small, we want to see a user in it, we want to see a successful business,” he said. “Especially with a larger box store like that, we don’t want those sitting vacant. We want stores in there. We want stores that our residents are interested in shopping at. I think this grocer would be a good fit for the community.”