Above: Inside Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market. [Click here to view photographs, including one showing its proximity to the Trader Joe's store, of the Fresh & Easy grocery market at 1700 Rosecrans in Manhattan Beach which opened this morning.]
Tesco plans to open one of its small-format, combination basic grocery and fresh foods Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market grocery stores in a "food desert" neighborhood (or neighborhood underserved by grocery stores that offer fresh food and basic grocery products at reasonable prices), at Central & Adams Streets in low-income South Central Los Angeles, Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market CEO Tim Mason said this morning at the grand opening of the retailer's new and 62nd store at 1700 Rosecrans in Manhattan Beach, (Southern) California.
Thus far, three of Tesco's 62 Fresh & Easy grocery markets are in such "food desert neighborhoods: one in South Central Los Angeles County's Compton and the other in Los Angeles' Eagle Rock neighborhood, which although has been historically underserved by supermarkets, is currently going through a gentrification process which likely will bring grocery stores from one or more competitors to the neighborhood in the not too distant future.
As part of its publicity campaign prior to opening its first Fresh & Easy stores in November, 2007, Tesco frequently stated in press releases a significant part of its Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market strategy in the Western USA was to open a number of the small-format grocery stores in "food desert" neighborhoods, which because of their primarily inner city locations and lower-income residential populations, are underserved by supermarkets.
The U.S. division of the United Kingdom-based retailer has been heavily criticized by Los Angeles based community, faith and labor organizations for not locating more than the two of its current 62 Fresh & Easy food stores in "food desert" neighborhoods thus far.
A coalition of community, faith and labor groups in Los Angeles, called the Alliance for Healthy and Responsible Grocery Stores, has been conducting a grass roots and media campaign designed to get Tesco to locate a higher percentage of its Fresh & Easy stores, especially in the Los Angeles Metropolitan region, in these neighborhoods, which have been historically and in the main are currently underserved by food stores offering fresh foods and groceries at reasonable prices.
At the Manhattan Beach store grand opening this morning, Mr. Mason said the announcement of the new South Central Los Angeles Fresh & Easy at Central & Adams Streets "demonstrates Fresh & Easy's commitment to open stores in all types of neighborhoods, including those that have been traditionally underserved."
"We believe everyone deserves fresh, high quality food at affordable prices regardless of where they live, and we are proud to bring Fresh & Easy to South L.A.," Mr. Mason said this morning.
Tesco's Fresh & Easy is planning a groundbreaking ceremony at the Central & Adams site in South central Los Angeles later this month, Mason said.
The retailer held a similar groundbreaking ceremony some time ago in San Francisco, where Tesco next year plans to open a Fresh & Easy grocery store as the retail anchor of a new mixed-use but primarily residential condominium development in the city's low-income Bayview- Hunters Point Neighborhood.
The San Francisco groundbreaking ceremony held at the site included the city's mayor, Fresh & Easy executives, members of various neighborhood groups, and San Francisco officials who've been working for many years to bring a new supermarket to the neighborhood. Tesco was the first food retailer to agree to locate a store in the neighborhood after years of asking various chains and independents to do so by city officials and neighborhood groups.
The heavily populated Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood currently has only one full service supermarket in it, a Foods Co discount warehouse format store owned by Kroger Co.
Tesco also has committed to opening a Fresh & Easy store in Sacramento's Oak Park neighborhood, which also is underserved by supermarkets. That store also is set to open next year when Tesco begins entering Northern California for the first time with its Fresh & Easy grocery markets.
The Los Angeles-based Alliance for Healthy and Responsible Grocery Stores argues Tesco isn't living up to its commitment to open more or enough stores in "food desert" neighborhoods because thus far it's only opened two (the Compton and Los Angeles stores mentioned earlier) out of its current 62 Fresh & Easy stores in such neighborhoods.
The group has conducted studies using Southern California-based university researchers, which it says have detailed numerous neighborhoods in and around Los Angeles which it says qualify as "food deserts," and where it believes a grocery store like Tesco's Fresh & Easy would do well.
The alliance has sent that information to Tesco Fresh & Easy USA executives it says but has complained CEO Mason hasn't met with members of the group to discuss the issue.
Meanwhile, Tesco's Fresh & Easy is just about the only grocery chain with stores that offer a selection of both fresh foods and groceries at affordable prices that's currently locating stores, albeit just two so far with a third coming, in these "food desert" neighborhoods.
Southern California market share leaders Ralphs (owned by Kroger Co., the number one supermarket chain in the U.S.) and Vons (owned by number three in the U.S. Safeway Stores, Inc.) haven't shown a desire to open stores in these neighborhoods in and around Los Angeles for years.
Ralph's did open a brand new Ralphs Fresh Market, it's new, more upscale format, in downtown Los Angeles though late last year as part of a massive residential loft development that's been built in an area of downtown that's rapidly gentrifying and drawing high-income young professionals who want to live in the heart of the city. An arts district is developing in the downtown neighborhood, along with numerous new restaurants, clubs and retail stores having opened in the last couple years.
This morning's grand opening celebration at the new Fresh & Easy grocery store in Manhattan Beach, which we were the first to report is located just a few short steps from a Trader Joe's grocery market, featured a ribbon cutting by CEO Tim Mason and the city's mayor, Richard Montgomery. Joining Mr. Mason and the Manhattan Beach Mayor was another mayor, Kelly McDowell, who is the municipal chief in nearby El Segundo, where Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market has its corporate headquarters. The new Manhattan Beach Fresh & Easy store is less than a mile away from the corporate office in El Segundo.
During this morning's grand opening event, Fresh & Easy presented a check for $1,000 to the local Wiseburn Educational Foundation. The foundation raises funds used to help support programs in the local school district. Each time it opens a new store, Fresh & Easy donates $1,000 to a local charity or non-profit organization, which is chosen by the store's employees from requests submitted by the groups.
A week from today, Tesco will open its 63rd Fresh & Easy grocery store in north Las Vegas, Nevada. As we reported on June 25, Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market USA plans to open at least 30 new stores in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada in the next 90 days. The retailer says it will hire about 750 new employees during this 90-day new store opening spree.