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Albertsons ready for one last goodbye

Its State Street supermarket is now closed, and the chain is expected to convert the Lake Grove location to a Haggen store in March

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - A Haggen employee hangs a sign at a newly converted store in Washington. The Albertsons store on Boones Ferry Road in Lake Oswego will be converted in March, the company says. Photo Credit: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Signs along State Street announced the final day of business for the downtown Lake Oswego Albertsons store. On the morning of Feb. 18, the Albertsons on State Street in downtown Lake Oswego was bustling.

West Linn resident Paulette Nixon-Weller exited the store excitedly, boasting that she’d just acquired $300 worth of groceries for about $50. Lake Oswego resident Ed Miska wheeled a cart-load of bargains to his car, too.

It was the last morning of operation for the store, and Albertsons had slashed the prices on remaining inventory by up to 90 percent. Eager shoppers were greeted with surreal scenes of largely empty shelves. Two lone Albertsons Bakery sheet cakes remained on display. A few scattered cans of Budweiser Lime-Ritas were all that remained of discounted beer and wine stock.

The 33,150-square-foot grocery store in the Oswego Village Shopping Center had been in operation since 1990, but company spokesman Dennis McCoy said it had not been profitable "for some time."

"And despite the best efforts of the company and our associates," McCoy said, "we have not been able to reposition it to better compete in the marketplace."

Many of those associates — 65 employees worked at the State Street location — were offered positions at the Safeway on A Avenue, McCoy said. That store is now the only remaining supermarket in Lake Oswego's downtown core.

McCoy said he's not sure what will replace Albertsons. Terramar Centers, which owns Oswego Village, is a "grocery-anchored shopping center developer," but company officials could not be reached for comment.

It's a different story across town, though, where employees at the Albertsons on Boones Ferry Road are preparing to convert their store to a Haggen Food & Pharmacy in March.

Haggen, based in Bellingham, Wash., purchased 146 Albertsons and Safeway stores in Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada and Arizona following a review by the Federal Trade Commission of the merger between Albertsons and Safeway. Once the changeover is complete, Haggen will be one of the largest grocery store chains in the state.

With the acquisition approved, the company is expected to grow from about 2,000 employees to more than 10,000 as it converts locations in Tigard, Beaverton, Sherwood, West Linn, Clackamas, Bend, Eugene, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls and Baker City.

Photo Credit: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Ed Miska of Lake Oswego loads his car with bags of groceries during the final hours of business for the State Street Albertsons in Lake Oswego.  Some items were discounted by as much as 90 percent. Remodels begin next month

Haggen will tackle the conversions gradually, said Deborah Pleva, a spokeswoman for the company. Haggen started converting stores this month in Washington and will work its way south toward Oregon.

Haggen’s Portland-area stores will be the first in Oregon to make the switch, including its Boones Ferry Road location. That conversion is expected to take place in mid-March, Pleva said.

“Many of these will be converted quickly, but the conversations are going to be pretty extensive,” Pleva said. “They have to put down fresh paint, new signs inside and out, re-tag everything, meet with employees. It’s a pretty fast and furious time to convert the stores.”

On the day of the conversion, Pleva said, stores will close in the early evening, with crews working throughout the night to reopen by the following afternoon. Haggen plans on keeping current employees and managers at all of the new stores, Pleva said.

“Retaining the existing store employees was an essential part of the acquisition and we hope they all accept our invitation to join the Haggen family,” said Bill Shaner, the CEO at Haggen’s new Southwest division. “These are great teams and these new employees will be an incredible asset to our growing company. Plus, these familiar faces will help ease the brand transition for long-time customers.”

Tualatin model for Oregon stores

Pleva said the converted stores will be similar to the current Tualatin location, with an emphasis on locally sourced foods and the staples customers need. Over time, Haggen will replace stores' current stock with its own products; prices won't change much after the takeover, company officials said.

“Haggen is still small enough to be very nimble and responsive to each store's customers. What you find in a Bellingham store will differ from what you’ll find in a store in San Diego. Being locally focused is a core value of Haggen,” Shaner said.

The new stores will be holding informal meetings with local farmers and producers to talk about selling their products at the stores. Each store will also donate $1,000 to a local charity on its first day, Pleva said, and will donate 2 percent of sales on select days to four additional organizations.

“We have a long history of giving back to the communities we serve,” said Haggen CEO John Clougher. “We want to demonstrate that commitment as soon as we open our doors.”

In the end, Pleva said, she wants shoppers to see the new stores as a part of their communities.

“Haggen is thrilled to be able to expose and invite more people to the Haggen experience,” Pleva said. “Haggen can really resonate with Oregonians. It’s exciting.”

That all sounds good to shopper Paulette Nixon-Weller, as long as one thing doesn't change.

"I really liked the people at Albertsons," she said as she left the state street store on its final day. "I hope I see them again."

Reporter Geoff Pursinger also contributed to this report. Contact Saundra Sorenson at 503-636-1281 ext. 107 or ssorenson@lakeoswegoreview.com.

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