AUSTINTOWN – It’s hard to miss the Wal-Mart expansion. The Mahoning Avenue store is now a Supercenter, with 61,000 additional square feet for a full line of groceries. It’s so big that the store has hired nearly 200 more employees.

You can bet that other grocery store owners have noticed.

“It’s going to be fun,” said Michael Rulli with a laugh.

Rulli, whose family owns Rulli Bros. stores in Austintown and Boardman, said he is welcoming the challenge of competing with Wal-Mart on groceries but quickly added that he has no choice. Wal-Mart has grown to be the nation’s largest retailer with a focus on driving down costs by tightly controlling inventory.

“Hopefully, they’ll make me a better operator,” Rulli said. “I’ll have to be sharper on price and sharper on buying.”

He’s confident, however, that his store’s prices are low enough to compete with Wal-Mart. He pointed to a 2003 survey done by The Vindicator that compared prices of nine household staples at six area stores. Rulli Bros. finished second, with its total cost being just 39 cents behind the Wal-Mart Supercenter in New Castle, Pa.
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