Bellingham-based Haggen Inc. will enter the grocery market in Eastern Washington by buying the Safeway store in Liberty Lake, the company announced Friday.
Haggen will buy 146 Safeway and Albertsons stores in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and Arizona. The company will balloon from a small chain with 18 stores and 16 pharmacies to one with 164 stores and 106 pharmacies, according to a news release.
Safeway and Albertsons are being forced by federal regulators to divest the stores in advance of their $9 billion merger, announced in March. The Federal Trade Commission must approve the plan to sell to Haggen.
The Liberty Lake Safeway store, at 1233 N. Liberty Lake Road, is the only location in Spokane County affected by the Haggen deal. The Bellingham company also will acquire Albertsons stores in Wenatchee and Walla Walla.
“With this pivotal acquisition, we will have the opportunity to introduce many more customers to the Haggen experience,” John Caple, chairman of the Haggen board of directors, said in the news release.
Haggen was founded in Bellingham in 1933 and was operated by the Haggen family until 2011. That year, the Comvest Group, a private investment firm, bought a majority share in the company.
The deal is expected to close in early 2015, and stores will be converted to the Haggen Northwest Fresh banner in the first half of the year, the news release said.
Haggen anticipates retaining store managers, the release said. Sara Osborne, spokeswoman for Safeway, said the Liberty Lake store has about 120 employees and “Haggen has said they will offer employment to all of them.”
John Clougher, CEO of Haggen’s Pacific Northwest Division, said in the news release that the stores are well-run and profitable. Haggen officials could not be reached for comment late Friday.
The deal would give Haggen more than 10,000 employees, up from 2,000 now. Currently, the company has stores in Washington and Oregon. It has been rebranding its Haggen and Top Food stores to Haggen Northwest Fresh.