“I passed by there a week ago and I was thinking, ‘Oh, that’s nice. It’ll be opening soon,'” Jeff Miller, a Fresh& Easy shopper, said.
But think again. Fresh& Easy is putting a temporary halt on several store openings across the Valley. More than 100 stores opened in 2008, its first year. Only 19 have opened since November, including the ones in Palm Desert and Indio. Construction of two stores in La Quinta are complete but not yet open. Five more are planned.
“We have several stores in the Valley that are in various stages of construction and or completion,” says Brendan Wonnacott, a Fresh & Easy spokesman. “We will be opening those stores. We have slowed down our overall expansion over the past several months given the current economic situation…so we will be opening in the Coachella Valley and are looking forward to serving everybody.”
“The rental market is suffering, not only in the Coachella Valley but the whole Riverside county and throughout the whole U.S. really,” says Duncan Smith, a property owner in La Quinta.
He owns two buildings in the same plaza as one of the new Fresh& Easy stores in La Quinta.
“I have some vacancies in this one building and so we’re all… we’ve had to adjust, lower the rents of some of my tenants and like everybody else and I just hope this new project flies well and gets me new tenants in here,” he says.
“It’s sad, there are a lot of grocery stores out here right now so maybe they’re reevaluating the need for more. But I think they have an edge over the standards that we know of,” says Miller.
Fresh& Easy says it plans to open another 60 stores over the next year. Those will open as early as the fall season.
To locate a Fresh & Easy, visit the store chain’s website at www.freshandeasy.com.