By Al Stewart
Even if they haven’t noticed the “Pardon our dust” signs that greet them at each entrance, shoppers visiting the Ralphs Supermarket on Foothill Blvd. in Arcadia know something big has been in the works all summer. Aisle-by-aisle, inch-by-inch, overnight work crews have been ripping the place apart and carefully putting it back together. Now it seems the finish line is on the horizon.
Tight-lipped company officials say they don’t want to tip off the competition by revealing specific “Grand Re-opening” plans. The store’s employees say they are excited, but uncertain about all the details. Still, a walk-through of the store reveals many new added fixtures and shopper-friendly features emerging.
Sleek new refrigeration displays (with glass doors added for greater energy efficiency), an in-store Starbucks, expanded seafood and meat selections; and even darker flooring that gives the store a more upscale warmer look, are being added. As regular visitors to the store can attest, the work has progressed at a rapid pace, usually between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. when the store is closed. Earlier this year, the parking lot was repaved with black top and fresh white lines.
As the finishing touches are being applied in late August, the retailer says it is planning a “Grand Re-Opening” in early October. (The Starbucks meanwhile, will open sooner, store staff confirm.)
“We are very excited to be investing in this neighborhood and bringing a fresh offering to our customers,” said in a statement from a spokesperson for Ralphs, which is a division of the Cincinnati-based retail giant, Kroger Co.
”Due to competitive concerns, we aren’t quite ready to release details on the store,” the statement added.
Competitive concerns for the retailer are indeed a major issue. The store relaunch follows a number of closures by Ralphs supermarkets in the San Gabriel Valley in recent years, including units in Arcadia, Glendora and Duarte. Meanwhile, a 2014 acquisition that led to the merger of the Vons and Albertsons chains is widely expected to result in the sale or closure of stores in the area. Further intensifying competition in the region is a number of supermarkets aimed at Asian and Hispanic consumers. Wal-Mart and Target are also elbowing their way in for a piece of the supermarket action in San Gabriel Valley.
While the company is yet to release plans for the Arcadia Grand Re-opening, a similar celebration in May for a store at Western and Manchester in South Central Los Angeles included a marching band, product giveaways, samplings and raffle drawings. The company also used the opportunity to make charitable donations to local community groups. The honor of cutting the ribbon was bestowed on Richard Thomas, the store’s most senior associate who began his Ralphs career in 1976.