August 08, 2001 11:00 pm
UP FROM THE EARTH: The new Safeway store at Willow Street and Adams Avenue is going up fast. A Dec. 5 opening is planned (The Observer/KELLY WARD).
UP FROM THE EARTH: The new Safeway store at Willow Street and Adams Avenue is going up fast. A Dec. 5 opening is planned (The Observer/KELLY WARD).

By Ray Linker

Observer Staff Writer

Starbucks is coming. Maybe.

There definitely will be an all-natural foods section.

There will be in-store banking. A gasoline station, an expanded customer-service desk, three times as much parking.

So, what is it?

Its the new Safeway store now going up rather rapidly at the corner of Adams Avenue and Willow Street in La Grande.

We have set the opening tentatively for Dec. 5, said Gordon Royal, the manager of the present store at Adams and Fourth Street.

Naturally looking forward to the big move, Royal has been meeting at the construction site about once every two weeks and that will increase to weekly as the completion nears.

James E. John Construction of Vancouver, Wash., is putting up the 57,000-square-foot building on the 7.43-acre site. There will be more than 400 parking spaces, landscaping, with about 70 trees. The present building of 34,000 square feet has 23,000 feet of sales space and 117 parking spaces.

The new store, set back against the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, will face Adams Avenue. It will have a value in excess of $5 million, Safeway officials have said.

There have been no construction problems and everything is on schedule, Royal said.

As for Starbucks locating inside the store, Royal said it is not definite but looks likely.

A sitdown area is now scheduled, he said.

The natural foods section will be something new for the La Grande store, Royal said.

The inside-the-store Select banking will be similar to the banks in other Safeway stores, he said.

The deli will be expanded and include a Chinese kitchen, Royal said.

The gas station will be at the corner of Adams Avenue and Box Elder Street.

It wont go in right away but should be ready when the store opens. Its not a major concern of the builder. They say they can do it in 45 days, Royal said.

There will be an expanded customer-service desk, more accessible and different from the current spot near the cash registers. Such things as cigarettes will be available there, Royal said.

There will be 11 cash registers; there are seven now.

Such aspects as the floral department and the pharmacy will have two or three times more space than we have now. The pharmacy area will be set up better to handle client counseling and to provide more privacy out of the publics way, he said.

The produce department not only will be larger but will include lighting and sound effects just before the water sprayer comes on periodically, as is the case in some other Safeway stores, Royal said.

Therell be strobe lights and thunder sounds.

Something new will be an automatic can recycling center, set off in the back, with its own entrance, Royal said. Customers feed the cans into a machine, which produces a receipt that the customers take into the store to receive payment.

Store hours will be 6 a.m. to midnight.

The store now has about 100 employees, and Royal wasnt certain how many additional permanent workers would be added.

Well hire some outside help for the store setup. We will have some temps when we open.

To help customers get familiar with the new arrangement of merchandise, there will be a site plan, in color, to show the various departments. Some will be posted in the front windows.

The corporation, which operates 114 stores in Oregon and Southwest Washington, is holding 1.23 acres of the tract on the west end for future development, but Royal said nothing is planned for that now. Itll be planted in grass, he said.

Appropriate ribbon-cutting ceremonies with local and corporate dignitaries will be formed up later, Royal said.

Royal has been manager of the La Grande store for five years. He started here as a clerk before getting into the corporations management training program. He has held company positions in Enterprise, Madras, The Dalles and Pendleton.

Safeway, which started as Skagg stores in 1915, now operates more than 1,650 stores in the United States and Canada.