Save Mart plans to convert southeast Fresno store to FoodMaxx

The Fresno BeeJune 3, 2014 

Save Mart will close its East Kings Canyon Road store and convert it to a lower-priced FoodMaxx store.

The existing FoodMaxx down the street will close.

The Modesto-based grocer announced plans Tuesday to reorganize the stores it owns in southeast Fresno, where food sellers compete heavily for customers.

East Kings Canyon Road has six grocery stores within 2.5 miles including Walmart, which was converted into a Supercenter last month and added a full grocery department.

"Fresno is becoming an increasingly more competitive marketplace and retailers are having to really pay attention to what shoppers are looking for," said Save Mart spokeswoman Alicia Rockwell. "We think the new FoodMaxx format will fit in the area better than our Save Mart was."

The Save Mart at 5671 E. Kings Canyon Road near Clovis Avenue opened in 2008. It will close temporarily June 29 for remodeling. When it reopens in early fall, it will be as FoodMaxx's newest concept, similar to the store at Blackstone and Barstow avenues.

The new format is a discount grocer, but looks more like a traditional grocery store than a warehouse store, Rockwell said. It has shelves instead of warehouse-style racks. It will feature both regular checkout stands and self-checkout lanes. And instead of steering customers through a certain path like some FoodMaxx stores, customers will be free to walk up or down any aisle.

The changes won't mean job losses for the store's 52 employees, Rockwell said. Save Mart is working with its employees' union to find new jobs for workers in other area stores, she said.

The grocery store industry has gotten increasingly competitive nationwide in recent years. The recession changed how people shop, increasingly driving shoppers to nonunion stores, Rockwell said.

Both Save Mart and FoodMaxx employees are unionized, and 90% of the company's competitors are nonunion, she said.

Throw in the extra-heavy competition in southeast Fresno, and Save Mart needed to make changes, she said.

"I'm happy to hear that they're staying," said Sal Quintero, the area's City Council member.

"They're changing, but they're reloading to get themselves updated in the area and coming in with their other marketing concept."

Quintero said he talked to grocery store managers in the area before the Walmart became a Supercenter, and "they weren't very happy.".

"I knew that was going to really have an effect on the supermarkets in the area," he said.

The street also has a WinCo, a Foods Co and a Vons, which is across the street from Save Mart. Two Hispanic grocery stores are nearby too.

The lease was up at the FoodMaxx store that will close. Save Mart owns the property that will become a FoodMaxx.

"We've been in Fresno a very long time," Rockwell said. "We want to make sure we've had the best fit possible."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6431, bclough@fresnobee.com or @BethanyClough on Twitter. Read her Retail & Restaurants blog at www.fresnobeehive.com.

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