This week’s roundup of retail news includes more action on the ever-changing grocery scene in Fresno and Clovis, and a few other non-grocery stores with familiar names coming to town.
Let’s start with Smart & Final, which is bringing one – potentially two – new stores to Fresno and Clovis.
Smart & Final
The former Vons grocery store at First Street and Nees Avenue is being transformed into a Smart & Final Extra! store. The store sat empty for months, but now heavy remodeling is underway and a Smart & Final spokeswoman says the store should be open by the end of the year.
The new store will be the Extra concept that caters to both business owners looking for a giant bags of salad croutons, for example, and average shoppers looking to buy just a couple of apples or do their family’s regular grocery shopping. The stores look more like a traditional grocery store, with a large produce section in front, than the original club store style Smart & Finals.
This is the same thing Smart & Final did when it took over the former Save Mart and Clinton and Blackstone avenues.
As for Clovis, the former Fresh & Easy store at Willow and Shaw avenues had two banners on it in early August saying Smart & Final Extra! was coming soon.
Oddly, those banners are now gone and neither the property owner nor the Smart & Final spokeswoman are commenting about the location. That could mean any number of things, including that the plan to open there is off, or just that all the final details haven’t been worked out yet and the site isn’t on the list of new stores the spokeswoman is free to talk about.
However, the manager of Tandy Leather next door to the empty Fresh & Easy confirmed that the leather business is planning to move down a few doors to make room for Smart & Final.
See, the 14,000-square-foot Fresh & Easy is about half the size of the average Smart & Final Extra! store. But if Smart & Final expanded into the neighboring spot, it would have more room for an Extra store.
There is a traditional club-style Smart & Final 1.3 miles down Shaw Avenue. The company isn’t commenting on whether this would be a move for that store, though retailers rarely like to have two stores so close together.
Smart & Final is growing ferociously and plans to open 25 more stores next year.
How are they surviving and growing when other grocery stores seem to be dropping like flies in the Valley?
One retail analyst says it’s because of their low prices.
“It’s a bare-bones operation but it does offer an extreme value,” says Jim Hertel of Willard Bishop, an Inmar Analytics Company.
The West Shaw Avenue Walmart is planning to move to a bigger building to become a super center, a change that would mean it’s open 24 hours a day with essentially a full grocery store inside.
Walmart is currently at the northeast corner of Shaw and Brawley and would move across Brawley to the northwest corner of Shaw and Brawley. Walmart bought the empty building – which once housed Dan Gamel Camp America and a Super Kmart – in 2012 and has been sitting on it ever since.
Shoppers will have to wait even longer for the changes to happen, however.
Walmart plans to start remodeling the building in summer 2017 and open in summer of 2018, says Walmart spokeswoman Delia Garcia.
The new building will add 85 jobs and more than 66,000 square feet of sales space, for a 193,361-square-foot store.
The current Walmart is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily and has just one aisle of fresh produce like bananas and bagged vegetables. The move will allow it to add many more fruit and vegetables and more groceries in general.
The Fresno Planning Commission voted 3-2 on Aug. 17 to approve an application for Walmart’s conditional-use permit and an environmental-impact report. Members Randy Reed and Cary Catalano voted no, citing traffic issues (though a new stoplight will be added to Barstow and Brawley avenues) and other concerns.
Catalano says he’s concerned about what will happen to the businesses in the existing center and that there’s not enough money to support all the grocery stores in the area. There are five grocery stores and a Costco within a mile an a half of each other on that stretch of Shaw.
“I absolutely believe that businesses have an opportunity and a right to expand,” says Catalano. “I do feel personally, as a planning commissioner, we need to look at our land uses carefully to make sure we’re not over-saturating our market.”
He’s also worried about the blight that could be left behind when Walmart leaves its current store.
Tuesday Morning, Skechers
A new Tuesday Morning home decor store and gift store opened last week next to Sprouts in the Trading Post Shopping Center at Herndon and Clovis avenues. The opening is technically a move because the Tuesday Morning on Shaw Avenue near Kmart closed.
The store sells mirrors and wall art, bedding, kitchen supplies, furniture and more.
Also in that center, work has just started on what will become a Skechers shoe store. The developer is also breaking ground on two buildings closer to Herndon that will house a Pieology, AAA, and a Sprint store.