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A tale of two Haggens 

While SLO city residents can celebrate the opening of a new grocery store to fill the former Haggen location off Foothill Boulevard, Arroyo Grande shoppers continue to wait for someone to fill the vacant location in their city.

It’s been nearly six months since the Washington-based Haggen Food and Pharmacy grocery store chain shuttered locations throughout the state, including six stores in SLO County that put more than 400 people out of work

On April 26, locally owned California Fresh Markets announced that it signed a lease for the former Haggen location in SLO on Foothill Boulevard. The company, which has locations in Pismo Beach and Santa Ynez, plans to open the SLO store in August.

Haggen acquired 146 former Vons, Pavilions, Safeway, and Albertsons locations in 2014 after the Federal Trade Commission ordered them sold as part of the terms of a merger between Safeway and Albertsons. Less than a year later, Haggen announced it was filing for bankruptcy and closing all 83 of its California locations.

While there will once again be a grocery store in one of SLO’s former Haggen locations, the chain’s former West Branch Street store in Arroyo Grande remains vacant.

“The store’s been closed for almost six months,” Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill told New Times, “It’s always been one of our top sales tax generators.”

In addition to losing out on the sales tax the location would generate, Hill said the loss of the store was a major inconvenience for Arroyo Grande citizens. Hill said the closure left residents with no traditional grocery store, forcing them to travel to a Vons in nearby Grover Beach.

Just who should fill that location is unknown, but in a letter Hill sent to FTC officials in February, the mayor named another local prospect, Spencer’s Fresh Market. Hill’s letter raised concerns that Albertsons might try to reacquire some the stores it was ordered to give up in 2014.

“In this regard, Albertsons is now rumored to be negotiating to reacquire the Arroyo Grande location, when Spencer’s Fresh Markets is a viable alternative to the anti-competitive situation that led your commission to require the original divestiture,” Hill wrote.

According to the letter, Spencer’s had been trying to obtain the location, but a bankruptcy court had tabled the sale due to issues with the location’s lease. In response to Hill’s letter, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez didn’t appear to confirm the rumors that Albertsons was seeking to reacquire the Arroyo Grande store.

“Under the consent order it entered into with the commission, Albertsons is required to inform us if it intends to do so,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez added that if Spencer’s wanted to lease the property, it would have to negotiate directly with the property landlord.

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