October 26, 2011 in Business

Grocery Outlet opens new location downtown

Third Spokane location offers urban residents discounts
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Grocery Outlet employee Ben Swofford stacks cans of refried beans as crews prepare for the store opening at the Third Avenue and Maple Street location last week.
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A Grocery Outlet discount store is opening Thursday in downtown Spokane, bringing a new choice for customers in an area with few supermarkets but plenty of residents.

It will join two other Grocery Outlets at 4210 E. Sprague Ave. and 7810 N. Division St.

This time, the chain chose an old Safeway location at Third Avenue and Maple Street in the heart of an area rich with apartments.

“I’m so excited,” said Spokane resident Victoria McLean when she stopped by to check on the opening last week.

“Grocery Outlet is awesome. It always has really good deals,” she said.

The store not only brings cut-rate prices but also 28 new jobs to the downtown area.

Throughout the store, foodstuffs are marked with their Grocery Outlet price and a comparable price at a regular supermarket.

The chain claims its prices run 40 to 60 percent below other supermarkets.

To achieve the savings, Grocery Outlet buyers scour the country scooping up overstocked groceries or slow-selling merchandise.

“Our inventory turns a lot,” said owner-operator Bill Smith, of Spokane.

He and his wife, Theresa, were selected by Grocery Outlet and awarded the chance to open the store based in part on their experience and a winning business plan, Smith said.

They’ve both worked in supermarkets and retail sales for years. They plan to have other family members working with them, including their son and grandson.

Based in Berkeley, Calif., the chain bills itself as the “nation’s largest extreme-value retailer.” It has more than 150 independently owned stores in six western states.

At one of the other Grocery Outlet stores last week, a one-pound bag of rice was 69 cents. Green enchilada sauce was three cans for a dollar, and a 750-milliliter bottle of Italian Chianti wine was $6.99. A liter of imported extra virgin olive oil was $7.99.

The stock constantly changes. “If you see it and you want it, you better buy it,” Smith said.

This isn’t just a dented-can store. Organic, imported and high-quality products are stocked, and customers aren’t made to select institutional sizes like those found in warehouse stores.

The two other Grocery Outlets in Spokane have achieved “above-average sales,” which made Spokane a logical place for another location, a company spokesman said last summer.

Grocery Outlet traces its roots to a military surplus store in Berkeley in the 1940s.

The new store is located a few blocks from Rosauers at 1808 W. Third Ave., which in recent years has been the only supermarket on the west end of downtown.

The new store is opening with a 10-year lease on the property, which is owned by Dave Coombs, the former manager of Downtown Toyota.

Coombs had tried to convert the building to a Lexus dealership, but that effort was halted by the recession a few years ago.

A grand opening celebration is planned for Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Customers at all three stores can enter drawings for prizes, including free groceries for a year.

Store hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.


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