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New Albertson's opens

Debbie Spaeth and Steve Fedosky — stock shelves at the new Albertson's store on Jacksonville Highway — just west of Medford. The chain's second new store this year opens — today.

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W. Medford store is chain's ninth in Southern Oregon

Albertson's is moving in with the new -- and out with the old may not be far behind.

The giant grocery chain is strategically shoring up positions along the Rogue Valley's growth lines with fancy new stores.

The long-term goal of Albertson's is to be well positioned, says Don Duncomb, the company's senior real estate manager. We felt the area was growing. We didn't think we were as strongly located as we should be.

This morning, Albertson's opens its second new Medford store this year -- a 57,600-square-foot monolith to modern shopping along Jacksonville Highway that anchors the Jackson Creek Shopping Center. A new store in the Larson Creek Center off North Phoenix Road opened this spring. A third new Albertson's is being built just off Interstate 5 in Central Point and will open early next year. A store in Eagle Point may also be in the works.

But as it expands and repositions itself, the Boise, Idaho company is also contemplating closing its store in the Bear Creek Plaza, which opened in 1977, Duncomb says.

No final decision has been made but Duncomb says the company will study how much the new stores draw sales away from the old one.

It's something we'll consider as the new stores open, says company spokeswoman Anne Alenskis. Maybe there's enough growth to support them all.

The three new sites were chosen to put Albertson's in the midst of fast-growing areas -- something the store off Biddle Road could no longer do.

Medford was growing in three directions and we were just in the middle, Duncomb says.

With the latest batch of building, Albertson's armada in Southern Oregon will reach nine stores (with the Bear Creek Plaza location). It will have three in Medford and one each in Central Point, Grants Pass, Ashland, Roseburg, North Bend and Klamath Falls.

Duncomb says it's normal to relocate or to remodel stores every eight to 10 years to keep up with industry changes and trends.

And the new store certainly does that.

This is where we've been headed for the last five years, says Don Kennedy, director of the new store, as he walks down Beverage Boulevard -- a double aisle of drinks that's painted to look like a highway.

The store like the Larson Creek location, has a certain theme-park feel. It features unusually large and colorful signs to direct shoppers to the Wine Cellar or the International Deli. A gigantic bowl of plastic potato chips marks the location of the Snack Center and the wall above the milk is a red barn front, complete with hay bales. A large wheel with photos of cats, dogs and a parrot rotates above the Pet Center.

Beyond the cosmetics, the store has many modern conveniences, including a full-service coffee shop, a seven-days-a-week U.S. Bank branch and a one-hour photo center. There are also bottle-it-yourself water dispenser that lets recycling-minded shoppers refill containers. The bakery offers a PhotoCake service that allows customers to bring in a photo, which is then scanned into a computer and printed on an edible, sugar-based sheet to put atop cakes.

The new stores are a lot more exciting, Kennedy says. It's not just a four-walled box anymore.

Shopping in this store is going to be an event, not just something you have to do.

New Albertson's opens