By Doug Curlee | Editor at Large
Owners of the Albertsons store at Waring and Zion streets will close its doors by Feb. 27. Citing “failure to meet expectations,” Albertsons LLC notified its union workers on Jan. 27 that the market will shutter as soon as everything inside is sold, including whatever store fixtures they can sell off.
This leaves many Allied Gardens in walking distance of the store with no nearby alternative for food and life’s other necessities.
It’s already looking half deserted inside, with most shelves empty of any products, since virtually nothing is being reordered.
“This must be like shopping in Russia,” said shopper Lisa Abolmaali as she scanned a shelf of baked goods in what used to be the bread aisle. Asked where she might shop in the future, Abolmaali said she didn’t know, but was pretty sure where she would not be going.
“I hate that Vons store down on Mission Gorge Road,” she said.
Russell Christianson said he’d probably find the nearest Food 4 Less store, saying “that Vons is just too expensive for me.”
The culmination of the store’s closing provoked more than a few among Allied Gardens stakeholders and residents. Initial reports were that the store would be closing because Albertsons LLC could not reach agreement with the owner of the property on lease payments.
That apparently came as a surprise to Mark Kelton, the property owner and son of one of the people who pretty much built the Allied Gardens we know today. Kelton said he had no clue about the store’s closing until he was contacted by members of the Grantville-Allied Gardens Community Council.
At a Jan. 27 community meeting, Councilmember Scott Sherman was asked by community residents if there was anything the city could do to stave this off.
“Unfortunately, there’s not much if anything the city can do,” Sherman responded. “This is a business decision totally between private parties on privately owned land. The city has no legal role to play here.”
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, who was also at the community meeting, echoed Sherman’s stance that there’s really nothing there for the city to get involved with.
Arlene Blood and Linda Peterson, who were at the meeting, said there aren’t a lot of choices immediately available.
‘We’ll be going down to Costco in the valley, I guess,” Blood said.
Sherman did say the city stands ready to help with efforts to place another grocer in the soon-to-be-vacated space, and there are apparently some efforts already underway.
But all involved acknowledged the elephant in the room: that if the store was no longer viable for Albertsons, what other major grocery retailer is likely to see things differently?
Potential options could be smaller, niche stores, such as Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or Sprouts Farmers Market.
There are other grocery retailers who might be persuaded to offer a full-service grocery, such as Keil’s or Stater Brothers. There is also a chance that Walmart could be convinced that one of their neighborhood centers, essentially small versions of their typical store, might work there. Such stores have opened successfully in El Cajon and La Mesa, and Target is exploring the same idea in a nearby San Diego neighborhood. If there is one small beacon of light here, it is that the Albertson’s employees who will be displaced will have other jobs within the company or with other stores with union contracts.
But as it stands now, Allied Gardens will have no grocery store for the first time in 60 years.
–Contact Doug Curlee at firstname.lastname@example.org.