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Market of Choice to open Medford store Thursday

Market of Choice will open its 12th location in the company CEO’s very own hometown Thursday morning.

The family-owned grocery chain, which has had a presence in Ashland for years, will open in Medford at 1300 Biddle Road, in the former Toys R Us store, which closed in 2018.

With a primary focus on natural and organic foods, the new Market of Choice store will be one of the company’s smallest at 31,000 square feet, but it will boast the same variety as other locations throughout the state.

The store will employ about 150 people, including butchers, bakers and cheesemongers, and offer items ranging from organic produce, a barista counter, a beer and wine shop, growler fill station and a full-service meat and seafood department.

Dave Viefhaus, manager of the Medford store, said he was excited about the new location, particularly in the hometown of company CEO Rick Wright.

“I think we can agree that it’s definitely been a long, long time coming. There’s a lot of excitement, and I know the community is really looking forward to us opening,” Viefhaus said.

“We’ve had a solid stream of people pulling through the parking lot, slowing down to try and look through the windows to see if we’re open and to see how it’s all coming along.

A 28-year grocery business veteran, Viefhaus said he was an immediate fan of Market of Choice when he moved from California to work at a Portland location last May. Viefhaus applauded the company’s focus on supporting and providing an avenue for local and regional growers and makers such as wineries and cheesemakers and on buying local produce whenever possible.

“I’ve worked for a few different types of grocery businesses, and this is just a wonderful company, and the style I prefer most. There’s more of a connection between ownership and management and employees and customers than anywhere else I’ve worked before,” he said.

“This store is going to be a really nice addition for the area. There is so much variety in grocery and specialty foods. There are high-end wines and everyday wines. It’s not a pretentious place to shop. Produce is super fresh. It’s a great fit for Medford, we think.”

CEO Rick Wright’s parents opened their first grocery, and the predecessor to what would become Market of Choice, in 1979.

Most recently occupied by a seasonal Halloween store, the store updating, said Viefhaus.

“We didn’t have to tear down any walls or anything major, but it was a transition. Toys R Us had no refrigeration and no floor drains. We had to run lines everywhere, so a lot of work has been done,” he said.

“Even the trash compacting area had to be modified. There was a trash compactor with a small tube on it. We had to quadruple that size to accommodate a grocery business.”

Joey Repice, founder of Joey’s Hot Sauce, said the grocery’s enthusiasm for local vendors will be a boost for the region. Repice founded his own brand of hot sauce last year when his wife requested some hot sauce without additives and fillers.

Repice said that trying to jumpstart his business during the onset of COVID-19 had been a challenge, but support from Market of Choice had provided a big boost.

“I love their little MOJO program, which is about supporting small business. It’s great when a big market does something like that when the bigger stores seem more focused on those bigger, more corporate,” Repice said.

“I think one thing the pandemic has brought for a lot of us, and myself personally, is that it’s really opened our eyes on paying attention to the foods we put in our bodies and on supporting small businesses. I’m not on Amazon as much anymore. It feels better to support those local growers and makers.”

Wright said his family is excited to open the Medford store.

“This community holds a special place in my family’s heart,” he said. “We’re excited to return to Medford and share the thousands of products grown, raised and made here in Oregon. As an independent, family-owned Oregon grocer for more than 40 years, providing local choices is at the core of our mission.”

For information, see marketofchoice.com.

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneMarket of Choice will open its first Medford store Jan. 28, at 1300 Biddle Road.