Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Opens First Store in San Francisco - in Outer Richmond District

Tesco's Fresh & Easy in Northern California - 2011

As part of its bid to become a "San Francisco Treat," like that popular packaged rice mix product "Rice A Roni," United Kingdom-based Tesco opened its first Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market grocery store at 32nd Avenue and Clement Street (pictured above) in the city's Outer Richmond District this morning.

About 250 or so shoppers by our count - many holding Fresh & Easy's weekly advertising circular and $5 off purchases of $20 or more discount coupons in their hands - were lined up in front of the store this morning before the 10 am opening. And when the doors were opened at 10 am, the folks in the front of the line wedged their way into the new store (as you can see in the photograph below), apparently wanting to be the first to see what their new neighborhood grocer is all about, as well as being the first to grab a few bargains.

Enter the Mayor

San Francisco's Mayor, Ed Lee - who is the city's former professional, non-political City Administrator and was appointed Interim Mayor by the city's Board of Supervisors in January of this year to fill out the term of Gavin Newsom, who was elected California's Lieutenant Governor in late 2010 and took that office earlier this year - was at this morning's Fresh & Easy store grand opening at 32nd and Clement, despite there being a bit of a mix-up yesterday in which it wasn't clear if the mayor would be attending or not.

But Lee - the non-politician-mayor who hasn't decided if he will run for the office next year despite being urged to do so by numerous San Francisco political players, including former Mayor Willie Brown - made it to the Outer Richmond District store's grand opening this morning. And once there he did a pretty darn good imitation of a professional politician-mayor.

For example, Mayor Lee (pictured below) posed for pictures with some of the kids from the Richmond Neighborhood Association, which Tesco's Fresh & Easy gave a check for $1,000 to, as the non-profit neighborhood group chosen to get the donation the grocer gives a local group each time it opens a new store.

The mayor also managed to get in a sound bite-sized plug in for the city of San Francisco, saying: "Today as we celebrate the opening of Fresh & Easy's first grocery store in San Francisco, we are demonstrating once again the city's commitment to providing our residents access to fresh, wholesome food at affordable prices regardless of where they live. This new store along with the Bayview store scheduled to open in August will provide local jobs to our residents and it will have lasting local economic impacts in these communities and the City as a whole."

No shows: Not unexpected

Who from San Francisco's very interesting political world wasn't at the 32nd & Clement Fresh & Easy store opening this morning was even more interesting as who was there.

For example, we didn't spot Assemblywomen Fiona Ma, who lives in the neighborhood and represents the Richmond District in the California State Assembly.

Even closer to home politically, we didn't see San Francisco City Supervisor Eric Mar at this morning's opening. Mar represents the Richmond District on the city's Board of Supervisors, and like Ma lives in the neighborhood.

The Assemblywomen is the author of AB 183, which we've nicknamed the "Son of Tesco Fresh & Easy Law," which having passed in the California State Assembly is currently in the California State Senate. If AB 183 passes in the senate and is signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, who like Ma is a Democrat, it would ban the sale of alcoholic beverages at self-service checkout stands. [See this story - June 4, 2011: 'Son of Tesco Fresh Easy Law': Self-Checkout Booze Ban Bill AB 183 Sails Through California State Assembly; State Senate Next Stop - along with the other stories linked at the end for details on the legislation.]

Tesco's Fresh & Easy has all self-service checkouts in its 176 stores in California (127 units), Nevada (21) and Arizona (28), which means, as we've written extensively about, that at a minimum the grocer will most likely have to offer at least one full-service checkout stand, with a clerk working it all the time, in each of its 127 stores in California if the bill becomes law in the Golden State.

Supervisor Mar is a major supporter of Assemblywomen Ma and her AB 183, having for example helped organize a rally on the steps of San Francisco's City Hall in support of the legislation earlier this year.

Tesco's Fresh & Easy is quietly spending a considerable amount of money on lobbying and public relations firms its retained as a way to it hopes defeat AB 183. The California Grocer's Association (CGA), which Fresh & Easy is a member of, is also lobbying against AB 183.

It probably would have been a bit uncomfortable - although interesting - for all concerned to have the Assemblywomen and City Supervisor Mar featured along with the mayor at this morning's Fresh & Easy Store opening in the Outer Richmond District, although the two politicos do represent the neighborhood at San Francisco City Hall and in the statehouse in Sacramento.

Since it wants to be a major player in San Francisco's food and grocery retailing scene, Fresh & Easy should get used to this type of conflict, since it's pretty much the norm in San Francisco politics and civic affairs.

Shared building: CVS drug store on the way

The 32nd Avenue and Clement Fresh & Easy store will soon have a neighbor: A CVS Pharmacy store that shares the building with the grocery market is set to open July 10. [See the side-by-side stores in the floor plan below. The CVS drug store is on the left. The Fresh & Easy market is on the right.]

Tesco's Fresh & Easy need not worry about the CVS store competing against it when it comes to selling fresh-prepared foods though. CVS has about 300 stores (and growing) primarily on the east coast that offer a selection of ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat fresh-prepared foods (along with some fresh produce and meats), which is a major emphasis of the Fresh & Easy format and stores.

However, a good source at CVS tells us that although the 32nd and Clement drug store it's opening July 10 will carry a decent selection of packaged foods and groceries, along with some perishables and frozen foods, like all CVS drug stores do, it won't be offering fresh foods for sale. None of the the CVS stores in California currently offer the fresh foods program, although that could change in the not to distant future, according to our same source at the drug chain.

UFCW union on hand

Along with the shoppers and simply curious at this morning's Fresh & Easy store opening at 32nd and Clement in San Francisco's Outer Richmond District, were a few representatives of the UFCW union, which has a strong presence in San Francisco, the Bay Area and Northern California. The union representatives handed out leaflets and asked shoppers not to patronize non-union Fresh & Easy, which is something the UFCW does at most of the grocer's new store openings and at various stores that are already open.

All three of the Bay Area's (and Northern California's) leading grocers - Safeway Stores, Save Mart/Lucky and Raley's -  are unionized, as are many of the region's smaller chains and even numerous single store independents.

The UFCW, which is currently in contract negotiations with Kroger's Ralphs, Safeway's Vons and Supervalu-owned Albertsons in Southern California,will soon be entering similar negotiations with the three unionized chains in Northern California noted above, as the contract in the region is set to expire later this year.

Non-union chains like Fresh & Easy, Walmart, Target, Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe's, Sprouts Farmers Market, Sunflower Farmers Market, Grocery Outlet and a couple others are fast-growing in Northern California, just like the are in the south. This development is a key issue in the Southern California contract negotiations, as it will be in the north later this year.

Paper not plastic

One of the key ingredients not present at the 32nd and Clement Fresh  Easy store in San Francisco that is present in nearly all of the other 175 Fresh & Easy markets in California, Nevada and Arizona are the free single-use plastic carrier bags tucked into each checkout stand in the grocer's stores.

Why? The city of San Francisco prohibits grocery stores by law, with some exceptions for small mom and pop markets, from offering the thin plastic bags to shoppers.

We did spot some free single-use paper grocery sacks at the store in the Outer Richmond District today though, along with the various types of reusable bags Fresh &Easy offers for sale in its stores, ranging from its inexpensive, plastic-like "bags for life, which sell for 20-cents each, to its 99-cent canvas bag and more expensive reusable canvas bag made from organic material.

We posed the question long ago in the blog as to if Fresh & Easy would add single-use paper grocery sacks to the stores in San Francisco because of the city law banning grocers from offering single-use plastic carrier bags. From what we saw at the store this morning, the answer is ... yes, it has.

Becoming a 'San Francisco Treat'

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market made its presence known in numerous parts of 43-square-mile San Francisco today. In addition to the store opening starting at 10 a.m. in the Outer Richmond District, Fresh & Easy's neighborhood affairs director Roberto Muñoz drove the grocery chain's "Clapple (the name of its clock logo) Smart Car" throughout parts of the city this morning as a way of drawing attention to the new grocer in town and the opening of Fresh & Easy's first store at 32nd Street and Clement Avenue in the city.

Above: Roberto Muñoz drives Fresh & Easy's Smart Car through Lombard Street, San Francisco's famed "Crookedest Street in the World." Below: A worker at the 32nd and Clement store shows the tiny car off to a photographer.

Tesco opens its second Fresh & Easy store in San Francisco, in the 5800 Third Street residential housing development at 3rd Street and Carroll in the Bayview District, August 24.

On Friday the grocer and the City of San Francisco's One Stop Hiring Center is holding a job fair from 10 am to 5 pm at the Bayview Opera House in the neighborhood to fill open positions at the 3rd Street & Carroll Avenue store (pictured below) opening in late August.

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market pays non-management rank-and-file store workers $10 hour. San Francisco is one of the few cities in the U.S. that has its own municipal minimum wage. San Francisco's minimum wage is currently $9.60 hour. In contrast, California's statewide minimum wage is currently $8 hour.

We broke the news of when the Richmond District and Bayview District stores would open - June 22 and August 24 - in these two stories - May 10, 2011: Breaking Buzz: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Plans to Open First San Francisco Store at 32nd and Clement June 22; and May 14, 2011: Breaking Buzz: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Plans August 24 Opening For Third & Carroll Store in San Francisco's Bayview District.

Tesco's Fresh & Easy confirmed our reporting on the opening dates for the first two San Francisco stores on May 23, announcing in a press release June 22 and August 24 openings. [See - May 23, 2011: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Confirms Our Reports First Two San Francisco Stores to Open June 22 and August 24, 2011.]

On Monday, June 20 we also reported in this story that Fresh & Easy has acquired a fourth store location in San Francisco,at 1245 South Van Ness Avenue in the Mission District, which the grocer has signed a multi-year lease for with the building's landlord. The now vacant building was previously home to a Delano's IGA Market store which was closed by the locally-based independent in December 2010. [See - June 20, 2011: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Bags New Store Location in San Francisco's Mission District.]

The other future Fresh & Easy store location is in the city's Portola District, as detailed in the story linked above. No work has yet started on that location, which Tesco's Fresh & Easy acquired in late 2007-January 2008 and has been sitting on and making monthly lease payments for ever since.

In its bid to become San Francisco's newest treat, Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market is looking for additional store locations in the city.

For example, it hopes to find locations for its 10,000 square-foot fresh food and grocery markets in the city's Noe Valley, Inner and Outer Sunset and Castro Districts, to name just four neighborhoods it would like to add to its portfolio, according to our sources.

San Francisco has a history of welcoming people from other lands - such as those from Ireland (the Richmond and Sunset districts have the highest concentration of Irish immigrants in the city), Italy (North Beach) China (Chinatown and the Richmond and neighboring Sunset District have the most Chinese immigrants per-capita in the city), Vietnam (The Tenderloin and the Sunset Districts particularly), Russia (The Richmond District is home to many Russian immigrants and features a huge Russian Orthodox church) and elsewhere.

United Kingdom-based Tesco hopes grocery shoppers in the City by the Bay will welcome the British grocer's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market USA chain - and make it the newest "San Francisco Treat."

Sing along to: "Fresh & Easy ... The San Francisco Treat." How does it sound to you?

[Photo credits: (top) San Francisco Chronicle; (next two) Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market; (floor plan) City of San Francisco; (Smart Car) Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market; (5800 Third Street) Fresh & Easy Buzz.]

Recent Related Stories

June 20, 2011 Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Bags New Store Location in San Francisco's Mission District

May 30, 2011: 82-Year-Old Grocer Andronico's Needs A Sugar Daddy of Sorts: 'The Insider' Suggest Tesco and its Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Might Fit the Bill

May 23, 2011: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Confirms Our Reports First Two San Francisco Stores to Open June 22 and August 24, 2011

May 15, 2011: Breaking Buzz: Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Plans to Open Second Store in Hayward, California August 10

May 14, 2011: Breaking Buzz: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Plans August 24 Opening For Third & Carroll Store in San Francisco's Bayview District

May 10, 2011: Breaking Buzz: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Plans to Open First San Francisco Store at 32nd and Clement June 22

April 6, 2011: Work Begins Inside 5800 Third Street Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Store in San Francisco's Bayview

March 21, 2011: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Flooding its Northern California Store Neighborhoods With Margin-Busting Store Coupons

March 15, 2011: San Francisco, Antioch and Fairfield Stores Next Up in Northern California For Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market

Additionally, click on these links - , , ,  - for related stories from late 2007 to the present. Click on this link -  - to read our April-December 2010 'Northern California Special Report' series.

March 14, 2011: Opening of Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Store at 5800 Third Street in San Francisco Held Up Pending Approval of Liquor License

March 1, 2011: Two Years On: Tesco Opens First Two Northern California Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Stores Tomorrow

1 comment:

TinkSF said...

Not crazy about the pckaged and shrinked wrapped produce or the meager selection of meats. I live less than a five minute walk away from the Fresh & Easy but will still do most of my shopping at the Safeway at the beach. Glad the store opened though because is good for convenience shopping. The store also nees more Asian foods.