DOWNEY - After years of anticipation, construction has begun on a 15,000-square-foot Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, which will occupy the former Albertson's building on Firestone Boulevard."The delay was on their part," said Steve Yee, economic development manager for the city of Downey. "The economy started slowing down and they had some entitlements to go through before they could begin construction." No date has been set for when the store will open, but Yee estimates that the new Fresh & Easy store will be completed by year's end. "From an economic standpoint, Fresh & Easy adds choice for our constituents," said Yee over the phone. "It's an organic-flavored market with British backing." Owned by the Britain-based Tesco, the third largest retailer in the world, Fresh & Easy currently operates 124 stores in California, Arizona and Nevada and is in the midst of a large expansion. Just last month, Fresh & Easy opened four new stores, one in Pasadena and Oxnard, and two in San Bernardino County. "We spend a lot of time looking at potential store sites," said Brendan Wonnacott, corporate spokesman for Fresh & Easy stores. "We want to bring Fresh & Easy to every neighborhood." According to their website, Fresh & Easy was designed to be a local, neighborhood market providing fresh, high-quality, wholesome food to everyone at budget prices. Typically smaller than most grocery stores, Fresh & Easy boasts its easy-to-shop aisles and faster, easier shopping experience. "There's a need for what we provide," said Wonnacott, in a phone interview. "We truly are your one-stop shop in a smaller format." Shoppers can expect to find national brand products, found in most supermarkets, as well as Fresh & Easy brand products, said Wonnacott. Fresh & Easy also offers pre-cooked entrees of various soups, pastas and pizzas, which customers can purchase and warm up later. "They're kind of like what you would make at home - only with ingredients you can pronounce," said Wonnacott with a laugh. Once completed, the new Fresh & Easy store will use only 15,000 sq. ft. of the 32,000 sq. ft. building and lease the remaining space to another vendor. In March, Fresh & Easy was granted use of the city-owned parking lot on Firestone Boulevard after an agreement was approved by the City Council. For Downey resident Paulina Garcia, 20, the Fresh & Easy will bring some much needed change to the city. "I'm glad they're putting something there, that building was looking like a dump," said Garcia. "Their food is pretty cheap. I think it will be good business for the city - a breath of fresh air." David Caceres, 23, of Downey expressed similar feelings. "I'm all for it," he said. "I think it will go well, tons of people are interested in eating healthy these days. It's a good change."
********** Published: August 14, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 17