Quality Market is coming back. The new incarnation, however, won't resemble the venerable grocer with an iconic meat counter on East Jackson Street in Medford.
Herb and Anita Miller, who operate five other HAM Markets convenience stores in the area, have leased the 8,976-square-foot store that was closed in May of 2011 after its previous owners, Richard and Rozanna Mulhollen, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Herb Miller said he hopes to reopen the store, just west of Hedrick Middle School, either late January or early February.
"I'm always an optimist," Miller said.
There was no thought given to changing the name, he said. "Everybody knows where Quality Market is."
Miller said the store has intrigued him ever since the store closed, and he began a more vigorous pursuit this fall after a U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved a change in ownership.
The meat counter, which drew customers from around the valley, and checkout lanes won't be part of the new Quality Market.
"It will look a lot different," Miller said. "I've never been in the meat business. I don't know meat and didn't feel comfortable venturing into something I don't know. Plus, I imagine it's hard to compete with bigger stores in that line."
What the store will have is a "beer barn" walk-in cooler.
This isn't the first time HAM Markets has bought a landmark store.
Back in 1994 when Miller was fresh out of college with a business degree from Southern Oregon University, he was managing Woodland Heights Market on the corner of Columbus Avenue and Prune Street.
"I was managing the first one when it came up for sale," Miller said. "I honestly didn't know what I wanted to do, so I decided to buy it."
Another 12 years passed before the Millers branched out when they picked up Short Stop Market and Deli on North Pacific Highway in 2006. Two years later they added Hwy. 99 Market in Talent and the purchase of Fair City Market in Central Point followed in two years ago.
Today the company has 28 employees.
"I have a good management group and our employees are lined up and on board with our mission," Miller said. "The employees are interchangeable so if somebody is ill, we can pull someone in from the other places."
Miller figures it will take six or seven new employees to cover the shifts at Quality Market.
"We'll train them at the other stores before we open," he said.
No manager has been named yet.
Quality Market will have a twist of its own when it opens.
"We're going to do hard ice cream and milkshakes," Miller said. "That's something we'd like to introduce at the other stores as well."
He plans to feature take-and-bake pizza at the deli counter as well.
For long-time customers, the change might be hard, but it promises to keep busy.
"I'm glad there will be grocery store there, it's nice to have a place on east side, so you don't have to drive all the way into town to pick up a gallon of milk," said Sandy Abell, who first began shopping at Quality 30 years ago when she and her husband lived near the store. "It was lovely that they would deliver. But as long as the new owner respects the name and brand of Quality Market, even without the meat counter it will be great."
Although Miller thinks six markets might be enough, he hedged on whether he's done shopping for stores.
"I can't say yes or no for sure," he said. "If something comes to me, I would be interested in looking."
Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.