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Bales grocery chain buys Lamb's Markets

Combined company will operate six grocery stores, including Nature's Choice Market in LO


REVIEW PHOTO: GARY M. STEIN - Lambs Natures Choice Market in Lake Oswego, which is also known as Palisades Marketplace,  is one of four Lamb's locations acquired this week by the Bales Marketplace grocery store chain. REVIEW PHOTO: GARY M. STEIN - Flowers fill the sidewalk outside Lambs Natures Choice Market in Lake Oswego. The store on McVey Avenue is also known as Palisades Marketplace.Lamb’s Markets, including the Nature’s Choice Market on McVey Avenue in Lake Oswego, has been purchased by the Bales Marketplace grocery store chain.

Dave Rumley, Bales’ president and general manager, said the locally owned and operated company will now boast six stores and just under 450 employees. Terms of the sale, which was finalized last week, were not released.

Bales, which has been in operation since 1961, currently has two Thriftway Marketplaces — one in Cedar Mill and one in Aloha. In addition to the Lake Oswego location, Lamb’s owns stores in Garden Home and Wilsonville and the Strohecker’s store in Portland. The Lamb’s chain has been in business for about 43 years.

Rumley told The Review that all of the Lamb’s Markets locations will retain their names for now — signs outside the Lake Oswego store still say “Palisades Marketplace” — and that all current employees will keep their jobs.

“We’re going to concentrate on getting the stores right and worry about branding later,” he said.

Bales CEO Mark Miller will serve in the same role for the combined company. His brother Barry will remain vice president of perishables. The Millers are the lead investors in the Bales ownership group.

Barry Miller said two of the owners of the Lamb’s chain — Nick Goldsmith and Gale Lasko — also will stay in executive roles with the combined company, Lasko as vice president of operations and Goldsmith as lead store director. Goldsmith will also play a key role in advertising and specialty programs, Miller said.

Lamb’s owner Bob Lamb is retiring, Miller said.

Lambs Makets operates stores in Lake Oswego, Wilsonville, Garden Home and the Stroheckers grocery in Portland.“We’ve all been talking about this for years,” Miller said. “My brother and I have been very interested, because we know that if you want to stay in this town and in this business for the long term, having just two stores is not the way to do that. It just got to the point where the motivation factor turned up a bit.”

Miller said economy of scale was one of the key motivating factors behind the sale. “Size gives us flexibility to get better products at a better price,” he said.

He said the combined chain will continue to emphasize fresh, local, sustainable products sourced from “places that use good farming practices.” In addition to fresh produce, meat and seafood, Bales stores typically offer a wide selection of wines and cheeses, a full-service deli, a scratch bakery, a floral and garden department and a wide variety of natural and organic products.

Both Bales stores also contain a Starbucks outlet and a post office.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Bales Marketplace operates two Thriftway locations, one in Cedar Mill and one in Aloha. The new chain will not be the area’s low-price leader throughout its stores, Miller said, “but we plan to be competitive in all segments of the stores and more competitive than we are currently.” To that end, he said, the management team will make “micro changes — we’ll look for details where we can improve.”

For example, some displays will be reconfigured and some programs that have been successful in individual stores — like Bales’ popular spice program — will be expanded companywide. This weekend, a “Seafood Extravaganza” that had long been planned for the two Bales stores will be offered at all of the Lamb’s locations as well, featuring king salmon, scallops, prawns and sushi-grade ahi tuna.

But stores also will have sections unique to each location, Miller said, in an effort to truly be neighborhood grocery stores.

“The ‘Cheers’ of the grocery industry — that’s what we strive for,” he said.

Overall, Miller said he is happy with the way the Lamb’s stores look and believes that “we are catering to our customers and adding to their experience in a positive way every day.” He said current employees seem “very excited, very positive” about the changes, and that he expects new workers will feel the same way.

“We’re in hiring mode,” he said.

In fact, the company is hiring three members of the bakery staff from the Hank’s Thriftway in Hillsboro, which announced last week that it was closing after 80 years. “And we just missed snapping up the deli staff by a couple of hours, too,” Miller said.

Together, he said, “we will work really hard, hopefully have some fun and create real value for our guests. I am humbled, excited and honored to be able to carry the Lamb’s baton into the future.”

Contact Gary M. Stein at 503-636-1281 ext. 102 or gstein@lakeoswegoreview.com.

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