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Supermarkets on the move

Food chains have four Medford stores in the works

Just as the Rogue Valley was getting a respite from the big-box retailers, another wave of development has appeared. This time it's groceries.

Albertson's Inc. is planning two stores in Medford and one in Central Point, Safeway is building a new store on Highway 62 near Wal-Mart, and Cub Foods is still campaigning for space in the plaza formerly known as Kmart.

So, are we hungry enough for all those groceries?

Yes and no, says Wayne Harris, manager of the Medford Costco store. The extra Albertson's and Safeway will cannibalize their other stores right away. But they're big companies and they can afford to carry a building for a few years.

Indeed, Albertson's spokeswoman Anne Alenskis says the company counts the rooftops and builds when the market is ready.

It's based on residential growth patterns, she said. We have an economic research department that works two or three years out to plan for stores.

She said plans for Medford are also driven by changes in traffic patterns.

The Boise-based company plans to open a store at Barnett and North Phoenix roads early next year. It will be the only store within about four miles and is poised to serve the anticipated development in the southeastern part of Medford.

The company plans to open the biggest Albertson's in the Pacific Northwest _ 57,560 square feet _ late next year at the south Central Point freeway interchange. The other stores are about 9,000 square feet smaller.

The biggest Albertson's in the world, at 81,325 square feet, is in Texas. — comparison, Food 4 Less is 85,000 square feet.

All three of the Albertson's stores are being developed by a team including Chris Galpin, Chuck Martinez and Greg Schuler.

Martinez says Albertson's expects all of its stores to be successful.

Central Point has only one grocery store and a good portion of people who live there drive to Medford or somewhere else to buy their groceries, he said. We're finding that market is capable of supporting a neighborhood center.

The west Medford store is going up right across the street from Sherm's Thunderbird Market. (Years ago the Albertson's site was a Mayfair Market.)

West Medford doesn't have the same kind of offerings that is available in east Medford, he said. And there's growth right in that area, outside of Jacksonville and as far out as Ruch that will use that store.

He said the primary market for a grocery store is within three miles. Some stores, notably Food 4 Less and Fred Meyer, are regarded as regional grocers and draw from far larger areas.

Even so, Fred Meyer's decision to build a store in Medford's South Gateway followed a survey that indicated only 10 percent of its customers came from south of Jackson Street.

Terry Allphin, manager at Food 4 Less, says his store attracts shoppers from McCloud to Glendale on Interstate 5 and from the Oregon Coast.

He doesn't see the new stores as competitors for Food 4 Less, but suggests they'll hurt the little stores.

I think it's going to dry up the small stores that are just barely making it now, he said.

Three smaller stores have closed in the past few years, including a store in Kmart Plaza, one on Stevens Street near the Medford Center and the store in Black Oak Shopping Center most recently known as Cantwell's.

The displacement of smaller stores by larger stores is a national trend, according to the Food Marketing Institute. The number of supermarkets has scarcely changed in the past 10 years, but the average store has grown from 31,000 square feet to 39,260 square feet.

The number of independent stores dropped by 17 percent in that time as the national chains have grown stronger.

The south Medford Fred Meyer, in fact, is the only new grocery store for Medford in the past 20 years that hasn't just replaced a predecessor.

Safeway, for instance, replaced its Medford Center store with a larger version.

C&K Market Inc., a Brookings company which operates 30 Ray's Food Place stores, completed a new store on North Pacific Highway which filled the vacancy left by the closure of the Big Y grocery store a decade ago. The company also replaced its store in Central Point with a larger version.

But the company did not follow through with plans to build a 59,000-square-foot store down West Main Street from Sherm's Thunderbird Market.

The walls are up at the new Safeway store on Highway 62. James E. John Construction Co., Vancouver, Wash., is building the 55,750-square-foot store near Wal-Mart in Crater Lake Plaza. Other details weren't available.

All the new Albertson's stores will have banks, coffee bars, full-service pharmacies, bakeries, meat and fish counters, video rentals and florists.

And each will have gas stations as well, selling Albertson's brand fuel.

— — PLANNED MEDFORD — ALBERTSON'S, SAFEWAY STORES

— — — — — — — CURRENT ALBERTSON'S, SAFEWAY STORES

Tom Flashman, left, and Chuck Jones, both of Eugene, put sealer on before painting the new Safeway store off Highwy 62. - photo by Jim Craven