Homemade explosive set off at city park|[10/23/05]

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 23, 2005

A homemade explosive device was detonated in the parking lot of Halls Ferry Park at about 9 p.m. Saturday.

The blast could be heard up to a mile away, but there were no injuries and nothing in the park was damaged, said investigator Brad Derrington of the Vicksburg Police Department.

About an hour-and-a-half after the explosion, investigators were still searching the park for other devices and were to continue to comb the park throughout the night.

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The device was composed of three beer bottles filled with an unknown solution, Derrington said. The smell of beer permeated the scene, he said.

The park was sealed off to vehicular traffic shortly after the blast, but it was expected to be open today after evidence was gathered and the search was complete.

Officials with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were initially contacted, Derrington said, but it was determined that the Vicksburg Police Department would handle the investigation since there were no injuries or damage reported.

&#8220The crunch on gas has affected everything, from groceries on up to everything else,” Mullen said. &#8220It takes more to ship” groceries to supermarkets.

Morgan, however, said he had yet to see much if any effect on grocery prices from the increase in prices of oil and gas.

Shumpert said Wal-Mart’s grocery business increased sharply after Katrina and has since leveled off higher than it was before.

Morgan said since the hurricanes hit and Sack & Save hit so closely to each other that he doesn’t know how much of his increase in business was attributable to which one.

IGA co-manager Doyle Martin also attributed much of his store’s increase in sales to Katrina and said he’s not sure all former Sack & Save customers have settled into a new shopping pattern yet.

&#8220It may take another month before we will know where it will level off,” Martin said.

Sack & Save also had an adjacent gasoline station, called Pump & Save, and it also was consistently among the lowest-priced sellers in town.

&#8220The only thing I really hate about Sack & Save is the gas,” the IGA customer said of the pumps closing. &#8220It was just so convenient.”

The former Sack & Save shoppers cited convenience as the biggest factor in their choices of new places to shop.

The unidentified IGA shopper said she thought that store, located across Interstate 20 from Sack & Save, is about as convenient as Sack and Save.

&#8220I can zip in here,” she said of her route between home and work.

Sack & Save reportedly employed 60 people. Each manager interviewed said his store had hired two to seven of those people. Martin said he was prepared to hire more former Sack and Save employees if necessary.

The managers also said they think the current grocery-store capacity is about right for Vicksburg and that they can handle their current customer levels.

Kroger has rearranged aisles since August. Local management referred questions to the company’s Memphis office, whose spokesman David Chadwick was not available.

Asked about any change in the length of the typical checkout-line wait since late August, the unidentified IGA shopper said checkout lines there and at other local grocery stores have seemed to be longer at busy times.

Plans for at least one new grocery store along U.S. 61 nearer a fast-growing residential and commercial area of the county, northeast of Vicksburg, have been announced but not completed over the past 15 years.

Jay Tidwell, who owns Super Jr. stores at 204 U.S. 61 North and 1095 Oak Ridge Road, said his stores have seen little effect from the events of the past two months. The Super Jr. stores sell some grocery items and gasoline but do not compete directly with the larger grocery stores, Tidwell said.

&#8220I’m more convenience: get in and get out, at a decent price,” Tidwell said. &#8220I like to have more than one thing to offer people.”

One of the busiest times of the year for shopping is approaching. As the first holiday season without Sack & Save in the market it will bring some uncertainty for retailers, Shumpert said.

&#8220One of the challenges throughout the holiday season will be to stay in stock on key items,” Shumpert said, adding that predicting stocking levels in the changed environment will be essentially &#8220a shot in the dark.”

&#8220We don’t know what they were selling or how much volume,” Shumpert said of his strategy for stocking Wal-Mart through the holidays. &#8220We’ve got to get aggressive.”