- Ingvard Ashby
When the Smart Saver at 23rd Street and Martin Luther King Avenue closed in August, leaving the 73111 zip code without a grocery store, residents interviewed by NonDoc called the closing “frustrating,” “devastating,” “a complete loss” and “a bad situation for northeast Oklahoma City.” As news of the store’s sudden closing spread, Smart Saver owners Hank and Susan Binkowski, who also own Buy for Less and Uptown Grocery, declined to say much of anything outside of Facebook comments suggesting neighborhood residents have their groceries delivered from other Binkowski-owned stores, until Aug. 16, when the Binkowskis appeared in a Facebook video blaming plumbing issues for making the store inoperable. On Nov. 14, Oklahoma City Free Press reported the property, faulty pipes and all, might be worth millions of dollars.
“If voters approve MAPS 4 December 10, one project listed is to spend up to $5 million to purchase that and surrounding property owned by Susan Binkowski’s company, Esperanza Real Estate Investments LLC, and develop it to improve commerce on the east side,” Oklahoma City Free Press editor Brett Dickerson wrote.
The Free Press report also cited Oklahoma County Assessor records indicating that “Esperanza spent from March through July of 2014 buying assorted tracts of land at the corner and going back to the north and east,” paying “around $3.4 million for all the properties,” which are currently valued around $2.1 million.
Hip-hop artist and community activist Jabee Williams, who’s opening a Ground House Burger in nearby EastPoint development, told Free Press “buying that block from them and flipping it” would be an “opportunity for the city to make good on a bunch of promises to the Eastside community that they haven’t held up yet.”
The Binkowskis’ Aug. 16 Facebook video also announced plans to open an Uptown Grocery at 1124 NE 36th St. “within 60-90 days.” Though Uptown Grocery’s Facebook page announced a Nov. 9 “hiring event” at that location for “positions across all stores across the Buy For Less family,” there is still no official opening date for the NE 36th St. store.