In The News

From the Oakland Tribune (Oakland, CA):

Grocery Outlet readies Watsonville store
Salinas couple to open bargain market in October
By Donna Jones

Grocery Outlet will bring its discounted merchandise and as many as 40 jobs to the city at the end of October.

Nate and Dawn Harrell, who have operated a Grocery Outlet in Salinas for two years, are expanding to Watsonville.

Major remodeling is under way at the planned store at Main Street and Auto Center Drive. Originally built as a grocery store, the property has been a used car lot for the past several years.

"It's going to be beautiful," said Dawn Harrell. "They've cut in more windows for natural light. They tore up concrete floors, and are putting down fresh concrete with a special sealant. We'll have five check stands and every department, health and beauty, produce, milk. It's a full-service grocery store with better prices."

The Berkeley-based family-owned Grocery Outlet buys surplus inventory for distribution to independently owned and operated stores to sell at discounts of as much as 60 percent.

Melissa Porter, vice president for marketing, said Grocery Outlet has been shopping for a site in Santa Cruz County since 2005, when a popular store in Felton lost its lease. The company not the individual operator leases the site.

"The stars have to be aligned, the right property at the right price," she said.

Porter said each store "is its own experience" with about half the merchandise found throughout the chain and the rest tailored to the community.

The Harrells turned around a struggling store in Salinas, earning them the rare permission for a second store, Porter said.

"We think they're that good," she said.

Harrell said in Watsonville she and her husband will cater to the Latino market, much as they are in Salinas. But Harrell said one difference will be a wine section, which she expects to have broad appeal.

Harrell said the store will hire 30 to 40 people, about 60 percent full-time. Eight county residents have been hired and are being trained in Salinas.

The recession has hit Watsonville hard with unemployment rates twice the county average. City Redevelopment Director Marty Ackerman called Grocery Outlet a good match for Watsonville and said it was a sign of growing interest in the city. She pointed to the recent sale of the former Bird Eye's plant on Riverside Drive to a group of investors who say they have potential tenants lined up.

"I really feel we're poised to move forward on several fronts," Ackerman said.