From receiving a controversial $500,000 loan from the Urban Renewal Agency in 2014 to its well-publicized closure in February of this year due to bankruptcy after just 15 months in business, the short history of the grocery store at the corner of Fourth Street and Adams Avenue in La Grande has been a roller coaster.
Yet Al Adelsberger, the original and current developer of the project, remains confident the store will fill a much-needed niche in downtown La Grande — and his optimism will again be put to the test when the store reopens March 1 as Market Place Family Fresh.
Adelsberger wants the community to give this grocery another chance. He and two new owners, Marco Rennie and David Yount, have learned from the mistakes that were made in the past, and while the revamped store will look and feel very different, it goes forward with its original intent: to be the neighborhood grocery store.
The developer noted the construction projects on Adams Avenue — like the new apartments in the Pennington building and The Landing Hotel expansion — have increased the need for a downtown grocery store, while at the same time bringing more nearby shoppers.
According to Adelsberger, for this store to succeed, it must make $50,000 in sales every week. In comparison, larger grocery stores must make more than $200,000 in sales. It’s not an impossible feat, and he believes the changes made to the store along with the continuing economic development downtown will make that possible.
When the former grocery store closed in February, it was announced that it would reopen in 90 days. That deadline came and went, but Adelsberger emphasized the space has been in constant transition since it closed.
“It’s (been) getting an upgrade” he said.
The upcoming holiday season further delayed the reopening. He explained holiday products would had to have been ordered months in advance.
When Market Place Family Fresh opens its doors in March, there will be some familiar faces, including Rennie, who was involved in the operation of the original store. Rennie has a background in operating grocery stores, including Whole Foods Market, a major grocery store chain that specializes in natural and organic foods.
Joining the team of Rennie and Adelsberger is Yount, who is the marketing director for Spokane Produce, a produce wholesaler. Yount recently won a major design award for My Fresh Basket, a small neighborhood grocery store in Spokane, and one of his responsibilities with the new Market Place Family Fresh was redesigning the store.
“The layout of the store wasn’t good at all,” Yount told The Observer Thursday. “That (design flaw) hindered it a little bit, (plus) what they were offering wasn’t unique enough, or enticing enough, to get people to come back.”
The three men have together re-envisioned the store, from what it looks like to what will be on its shelves.
See more in Friday's edition of The Observer.