Friday, April 4, 2008

'Fresh' British Market Still Opening in Vallejo, Despite Rumors

'Fresh' British Market Still Opening in Vallejo, Despite Rumors
By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched: 04/04/2008

At least one location of a rapidly expanding British supermarket chain is still set to open in Vallejo next year, despite reports that the firm has put the brakes on U.S. openings, a company spokesman said Wednesday.

After next week, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market won't open any new stores for the next three months, fueling speculation about the company's prospects. But the break was planned all along, said company spokesman Brendan Wonnacott.

"A wire story was written giving the wrong impression," Wonnacott said. "But there are no delays in openings, no delays in site selections, no delays in construction."

The British supermarket chain, the U.S. division of Tesco PLC, plans 18 Bay Area stores, including at least one each in Vallejo, Napa and Fairfield.

"There were no openings planned in the next three months. That's what makes it not a delay," Wonnacott said.

Wonnacott said the break doesn't reflect financial troubles and that the early results from the stores already operating in the United States are encouraging.

He said the company is taking the opportunity to listen to customer input and tweak some things to better suit American tastes.

"It's an opportunity to kick the tires, so to speak. To step back and see what's working and what's not working," he said. "We've already added a couple of products to our prepared food line and started accepting American Express."

Vallejo Community Development Analyst Annette Taylor, said as far as she knows, a Fresh & Easy is still coming to Oakwood Avenue and Springs Road in 2009.

"The last time I spoke to my contact they were thinking of moving forward but hadn't submitted any plans," she said.

There may be two other Vallejo locations in the offing, she said, and Wonnacott stopped just short of confirming where they are.

"There are a couple of other possible Vallejo sites in the pipeline and we'll make announcements on those in the coming weeks and months," he said.

Fresh & Easy has opened nearly 60 stores since late last year, mostly in Southern California. Generally, it sticks to spaces of about 10,000 square feet, slightly smaller than a typical Trader Joe's. It carries a narrower selection of goods than standard supermarkets, but with a higher proportion of private-label and prepared products.

• E-mail Rachel Raskin- Zrihen at or call 553-6824.

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