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Ashland's Buy Rite will close

Eugene-based Price Chopper bought the 32-year-old grocery

From wire and staff reports

ASHLAND-- Meister's Buy Rite will be closing Nov. 5 after 32 years of selling groceries on a slice of land between Highway 66 and Siskiyou Boulevard.

Price Chopper, a Eugene-based grocery chain owned by Richard and Marcia Right, will be remodeling the space and reopening as PC Market of Choice in several months.

The deal to lease the building and add 5,000 square feet is expected to close by mid-November, said Rick Right, Price Chopper's vice president of operations.

About 20 employees will be displaced. However, Price Chopper has offered them work at two of its Grants Pass stores.

Steve Meister, who owns Buy Rite with his father, Richard, said he just decided to sell the business and lease out the building. The store is still profitable. I just wanted to go into other areas.

He said he has not yet decided what he will do next.

Meister said Price Chopper may hire some of his 20-25 employees, but because of the delay in opening, some of them may find other jobs in the meantime.

Our customers are going to miss us and we'll miss them, too, he said. It's a good move for me.

News of the closure saddened many citizens who had been shopping at the store for more than 32 years.

I think it's so sad, said Annie Hoy, a spokeswoman for the Ashland Community Food Store. I can understand as a businessman why he would want to sell the business. But there were only three grocery stores that were locally owned -- Buy Rite, the Food Store and Cantwell's (Market). Now this just knocks one more off.

Others said they were relieved the store was being sold to Price Chopper instead of a larger, out-of-state chain.

They are not so big that they don't care, said Pat Martin, a Buy Rite assistant manager.

The new store will offer a mix of conventional groceries and organic and natural foods, and will feature a deli and from-scratch bakery.

Nearby food retailers are bracing for a slight slump in sales as customers try out Price Chopper. But Hoy said she expects customers to stay loyal to the co-op in the long run.

Price Chopper decided to open a store in Ashland because of strong demand for natural and organic foods.

We've had a lot of success with our south Eugene location. There's a diverse mix of customers who like natural and organic foods. Ashland is similar to that, he said.

Price Chopper officials looked at a number of sites in Ashland before settling on the Buy Rite site because it is nestled between Highways 66 and 99 and is near Southern Oregon University, Right said.

Buy Rite was a Mom and Pop store. I like locally owned stores, but they have a right to sell and I wish them well, said Rick Nagel, president of the Ashland Chamber of Commerce. As for the new store, I say, `Welcome to our town.'