By Al Stewart
The long awaited official “Grand re-Opening” of the Ralphs supermarket on Foothill Blvd. in Arcadia was mostly business usual, but a gathering of store employees in the parking lot for a mid-morning pep-talk hinted that something was stirring at the old store.
Clad in their matching crisp black polo shirts, and beaming with obvious pride, about a dozen workers huddled in front of the store with District Manager Joey Diamelio. “These Grand-Reopening are never easy,” he told the workers. “This took a lot of work but you can see inside how great the store looks and all the new improvements.” he added, before asking those assembled to pose for photos with an oversized check to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) for $48,100 raised by the retailer through customer and employee contributions.
Shoppers could be forgiven if they did not take note of the Oct. 10t “Grand re-opening.” The three month, top-to-bottom make-over was completed while the store remained fully operational for 20 hours day, from 5a.m. to 1 a.m. It touched nearly every square foot of the 50-year old supermarket and included new energy efficient displays and new resilient flooring.
Perhaps most prominently, an in-store Starbucks has been added in the front end. In addition, an expanded meat section now includes an upgraded service counter with choice cuts displayed under glass. Also new and decidedly upscale is a selection of “dry aged beef” that is tenderized in a temperature controlled-environment for up to 35 days to assure “the pinnacle of flavor.”
In addition, the produce department includes more “organic and natural items” while the on-premises bakery has expanded it offerings to include elaborately designed cakes and pastries. A fresh Sushi counter has been added, as have a wide selection of high-end beers from niche micro-breweries.
Although no ceremony or ribbon cutting was held to help celebrate, the first 300 customers arriving after 8 am received a free bag of breakfast groceries. The store also held a raffle for tickets to Disney Land and had manufactures representatives on hand to offer free samples. A handful of representatives from Ralph’s parent company, the Cincinnati-based retail giant, Kroger Company, roamed the aisles to assist shoppers.
Standing amid a busy swirl of customers at the entrance, store manager Chuck Hamman noted that the changes are mainly aimed at gaining an edge in the highly competitive San Gabriel Valley. “Everyone is trying to get a piece of the pie, we know that,” he said. “These improvements are great. They have really done a terrific job. But that is only part of it. We also have to have great people here who are very friendly, very focused on the customer. I think that’s why people come back. I think our customers are going to really like this upscale look.”
– Courtesy photos