Fresh & Easy Buzz has learned Tesco plans to open at least five of its Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market grocery stores in the Fresno, California Metropolitan region in the state's Central Valley.
Two of the stores will be in the city of Fresno, with one each of the remaining three being in the nearby cities of Clovis, Hanford and Visalia. Fresno and Clovis are in Fresno County, Hanford is in King's County and Visalia is in Tulare County. Fresno and its growing skyline is pictured at the top of the story.
The five stores will be Tesco's first in the Fresno market region of the Central Valley.
The addresses of the five new Fresh & Easy stores are:
>8059 North Cedar Avenue, Fresno, CA, Fresno County
>R Street & Tulare Street, Fresno CA, Fresno County
>Fowler Avenue & Herdon Avenue, Clovis CA, Fresno County
>10th Avenue & Fargo Avenue, Hanford CA, King's County
>105 West Caldwell Avenue, Visalia CA, Tulare County
Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market currently has off-sale beer and wine license applications pending with the California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control for each of these store locations.
In addition, we talked with a source in the Fresno County Planning Department who verified Tesco plans to open the five Fresh & Easy small-format, convenience-oriented grocery stores in the above locations.
The planning department employee also told us it's highly unlikely Fresh & Easy wouldn't get approval for the off-sale beer and wine licenses from the ABC, as it's generally a routine matter. Only when a retailer attempts to sell spirits at a new location is there generally the potential for licensing issue problems in California.
On March 17, Fresh & Easy Buzz reported in the brief item reproduced below in italics Tesco was looking to the Fresno region to open stores as part of its March north in the Golden State, home to 38 million people, from Southern California:
March 17, 2008
Two local sources from Fresno, one who is involved in economic development and the other who is a commercial real estate agent, have told us representatives from Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market have been looking around the city and metropolitan region for potential grocery store sites. Both sources are very plugged-in to Fresno retail business development and commercial retail real estate.
Fresno makes good sense for Fresh & Easy in that it is midway between Southern and Northern California, very close to Bakersfield where it will open at least six stores, is a fast-growing city (Fresno has a population of about 400,000, with a metropolitan region of about 1 million people.)
Our sources don't have any further details in terms of potential sites or lease negotiations yet. However, they said they believe its just a matter of time in terms of something tangible taking shape. We'll keep you informed.
We're pleased to confirm the March 17 Fresh & Easy Buzz Fresno item in this piece today.
As we reported here on March 10, Tesco plans to open five stores in the Bakersfield, California region in the Southern Central Valley either beginning at the end of this year or more likely early next year. [Read the March 10 piece here for the store locations and an analysis of the Bakersfield region food and grocery retailing market.]
Bakersfield is about 110 miles south of Fresno on Interstate 5, which is the major north-south interstate in California.
The Fresno Metropolitan region has a population of about 1.1 million residents, making it the second-largest region in the Central Valley after the Sacramento Metro area.
Fresno, which is the region's largest city at about 500,000 people, as well as the Fresno County governmental seat, has grown over the last 25 years from a fairly small rural city to a teaming urban city. Fresno is the sixth-largest city in California.
Fresno is home to Fresno State University, which is well-known nationally in the U.S. for its football and basketball teams. Fresno State also is famous for its enology and viticulture program, graduating thousands of wine grape growing and wine making professionals over the years who are employed in the California wine industry and throughout the world in the field.
The Fresno region's economy is still primarily based on large-scale agriculture or agribusiness. However, it's diversified considerably over the last two decades. Healthcare, education, retail and financial services are today among the region's key employment and economic drivers along with agribusiness.
The region also has a number of California's fastest-growing cities, according to population-growth data released just two weeks ago by the California Department of Finance. Three of those fast-growing cities are: San Joaquin, which had a 17.4 increase in population from 2006 to 2007; Coalinga, which had an increase of 5.9%; and Fowler, which saw its population grow by 5.8 % from 2006 to 2007.
Fresno region food and grocery retailing market
The Fresno market region's leading food and grocery retailers are Safeway-owned Von's, which operates its Vons' banner supermarkets in the area, and Modesto, California-based Save Mart, which operates supermarkets in the region under the Save Mart banner, along with discount warehouse stores under the FoodMaxx banner.
Other key food and grocery retail players in the Fresno region include: SuperValu, Inc.-owned Albertsons; Wal-Mart, which has a few Supercenters in the region; Food-4-Less, which operates a handful of large, discount warehouse stores in the market; Foods Co, the warhouse store division of Kroger Co.'s Ralphs Grocery Co.; Costco Wholesale; and Winco Foods, which has stores in Fresno, Clovis and Visalia.
Whole Foods Market, Inc. also has a store in Fresno. Trader Joe's has two stores in the city.
Last year, Trader Joe's started a local merchandising effort in its Fresno store, which included selling a range of wines made by the Fresno State University wine studies department. The wines did so well, Trader Joe's rolled them out to most of its California stores, as well as to some stores outside of the state.
The wines were created by University wine-making students and faculty especially for Trader Joe's stores. Fresno State is the only university or college in the U.S. licensed to sell the wines it produces.
There also are a number of high-volume independents in the Fresno market, such as popular Catalano's Market, Fresh Market, Bentley's Market and and a handful of others.
There's also a fairly popular nine-store local hybrid convenience store/small grocery store chain in the region called Johnny Quick Food stores. Seven of the markets are in Fresno, with two located in nearby Clovis.
The Central Valley and the Fresno region are much different culturally and demographically than Southern and Northern California. Successful food retailers, whether national or statewide chains or local grocers, either knew that before coming into the market or learned it fast.
Fresno region consumers are very "hometown proud." For example, even though the metropolitan region has over a million residents, it doesn't have any professional sports teams. It really doesn't need any though, as the Fresno State Bulldog's football and basketball teams are professional sports teams as far as the area's residents are concerned.
During one or more times throughout the year, just about every supermarket--chain and independent alike--conducts some type of promotion involving the "Bulldogs." For example, in the photograph in this university press release you can see the Trader Joe's-Fresno State wine promotion has a "Bulldogs" theme to it in-store at its Fresno grocery markets.
The Save Mart supermarket chain even built Fresno State's fairly new multimillion dollar sports and entertainment arena, which is called the Save Mart Center.
Save Mart put up the majority of the cash to build the state-of-the-art facility and solicited the rest from its biggest suppliers and vendors. Together, the supermarket chain, the suppliers, and Fresno State conduct numerous promotional tie-ins of events held in the arena with in-store promotions at Save Mart stores in the market, involving the suppliers who helped pay for the facilitiy.
Although Fresno and the surrounding region is much different today than it was decades ago when its favorite and most famous son, the writer William Saroyan, was writing his famous books, plays and short stories, many of which were based in and on his life in Fresno, it's also still the same in many ways.
Family, community, agriculture; these remain the key values in the Fresno area today, despite the massive growth the region has experienced over the past 30 years or so.
Among Fresno-born and raised Saroyan's (he left to see the world but again returned to the city as an older man to live) most famous works include the play "The Time of your Life," which was set in a saloon on the San Francisco Waterfront. Saroyan moved to San Francisco from Fresno at one point so he could experience the "big city."
The writer won the Pulitzer Prize for the play, but refused it on the grounds that commerce should not judge the arts. In 1948 the movie version of "The Time of Your Life" was released, starring James Cagney. Saroyan didn't refuse what was at the time one of the highest prices Hollywood paid for the movie rights to a play however.
Another famous piece of Saroyan writing is the "Human Comedy," which is set in the fictional town of Ithacca in the Central Valley, but was known to all to really be about life in Fresno through the writer's mind and pen.
Another seminal Saroyan work is "The Daring Young Man On the Flying Trapeze," among many others plays, books and short stories he wrote and that have received world renown.
Saroyan died in a veterans hospital back home in Fresno in 1981. He had returned to live in Fresno a number of years before his death, living all that time in a modest tract-style home he owned in one of the city's middle income neighborhoods. You can read and learn more about Fresno's famous favorite son and international literary success story William Saroyan here at the website of the William Saroyan Society.
In his book, "The Time of Your Life," which was published in 1939, a young Saroyan wrote this:
"In the time of your life, live — so that in good time there shall be no ugliness or death for yourself or for any life your life touches. Seek goodness everywhere, and when it is found, bring it out of its hiding-place and let it be free and unashamed. Place in matter and in flesh the least of the values, for these are things that hold death and must pass away. Discover in all things that which shines and is beyond corruption. Encourage virtue in whatever heart it may have been driven into secrecy and sorrow by the shame and terror of the world. Ignore the obvious, for it is unworthy of the clear eye and the kindly heart. Be the inferior of no man, nor of any man be the superior.
Remember that every man is a variation of yourself. No man's guilt is not yours, nor is any man's innocence a thing apart. Despise evil and ungodliness, but not men of ungodliness or evil. These, understand. Have no shame in being kindly and gentle, but if the time comes in the time of your life to kill, kill and have no regret. In the time of your life, live — so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it
Fairly good advice for all of us competing in the marketplace "In the Time of our Life."