MV Stater Bros. revamped
From the Press-Enterprise
One of the biggest players in Southern California’s fiercely competitive grocery market has freshened up five stores in three counties with new floors and lights, and is enticing customers at a Riverside County market with sushi, bulk food and “grab-and-go” islands.
Similar improvements are planned for the fall at four more Stater Bros. stores in Santa Ana, Calimesa, West Covina and Rancho Cucamonga, said Nancy Negrette, a spokeswoman for the company that operates 171 supermarkets.
The remodeled markets, which held “grand reopening” ceremonies last week to highlight the renovations, are several decades old, the oldest dating to 1972 and the youngest to 1980.
“What Stater Bros. is doing is trying to adapt to the changing desires of the customers,” said Randall Lewis, a principal in Upland-based Lewis Group of Companies, one the region’s largest retail developers and builder of three shopping centers across the Inland Empire in recent years with chain stores.
“There is a lot more interest in prepared foods, and a lot more interest in interesting foods,” Lewis said. “A lot of people are starved for time.”
The remodeled markets are in Jurupa Valley, Moreno Valley, Riverside’s Woodcrest neighborhood, Upland and Yorba Linda, officials said. Also last week, Stater Bros. announced it was writing checks totaling $12,500 — $2,500 in each community — to local charities.
The stores were retrofitted with energy-efficient LED lighting and modern flooring, while offerings of premium wines and so-called grab-and-go food items were expanded.
“We know a lot of our customers are crunched for time and they want healthy grab-and-go items for a lunch option,” Negrette said.
A giant warehouse-sized store in southern Moreno Valley also was the recipient of special features. Rancho Verde High School senior Ashley Banda said she likes the new sushi island that greets arriving customers where there used to be a soda machine.
“It’s our favorite,” she said. “I thought it was really cool.”
While there, Ashley grabbed a $6.49 package containing a dozen California rolls and headed for the checkout line. “I’m not really much of a raw fish person,” she added.
Vincent Cheng, the store’s sushi chef, daily prepares various packages and sets them out, while answering customers’ questions. Cheng said he also fills special orders — in about five minutes — for those who don’t want anything from the shelf.
Of the five remodeled stores, only Moreno Valley has the sushi island, Negrette said. It’s the only store big enough to accommodate one, she said. Stater Bros. plans to add sushi islands at other stores that have adequate space, but Negrette didn’t know how many of the four stores being renovated in the fall will get them.
Vincent Cheng, sushi chef at the Stater Bros. store in southern Moreno Valley, prepares smoe sushi for the store’s new sushi island on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. (Photo by Frank Bellino, Contributing Photographer)
The Moreno Valley store also was the only one this month to receive an island displaying fresh cut fruit, guacamole and ready-made sandwiches and salads. It also offers a bulk food station at which customers measure customized portions of trail mix, almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried banana chips and other items. She said that, too, was because of its abundant space.
Wil Gilbert, Moreno Valley store manager, said customers generally like the new features. They like the flooring, too.
“Believe it or not, a lot of people think the aisles are wider,” Gilbert said, adding that they aren’t.
In one sense, a supermarket industry analyst said, it sounds like the chain is a little late in adding features at its older stores.
“I think they are trying to catch up to 2005,” said David J. Livingston, an analyst based in Milwaukee. “That’s sort of been around forever. And I think they are going to have to do a little more than that.”