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VONS OPENS A SUPER STORE AGAIN
by Jim Bennett and Bart Levenson
Long Beach, CA
December 12, 2010
The Vons grocery company has long been a Southern California grocery mainstay creating retail innovations since 1906. It began with a total capital investment of only $1,200. Founded by resourceful Charles Von der Ahe, an Illinois entrepreneur who started in the grocery business as a delivery boy. Mr. Von der Ahe and family members continued to carefully observe merchandising techniques, customer buying patterns and developed innovative strategies to fuel dynamic growth.
Vons was first to introduce cash and carry, self service, pioneered the combination store concept by 1929 while establishing 87 stores. In the early1930′s Von der Ahe came out of retirement to join his two sons and Safeway to grow a new chain of stores. By 1948, the Safeway partnership culminated in the opening of a prototype downtown Los Angeles supermarket of over 50,000 square feet. It featured innovative features notably self service produce, meat and delicatessen departments paving the way for decades of growth and innovation.
Fast forward to December 2010 to Long Beach’s emerging East Village area and a similar size and featured new state-of-the-art Vons 50,000 square foot supermarket that is introduced almost 100 years later to an appreciative public. Located near the Pacific Ocean at 600 East Broadway, the extremely well built structure features roof top parking for over 70 vehicles. Direct elevator access to the store revealing many surprises in a clean, bright, comfortable and well organized shopping area staffed with friendly, knowledgeable people throughout the store.
This multi-million dollar project has been hoped and expected for many years by the neighborhood and coastal residents. Construction over the past 11 months was done very professionally with poured on-site huge concrete walls and structural members. Massive cranes placed hulking elements with uncanny precision guided by iron and concrete workers with military focus and commitment. Teamwork and superior organizational skills were on display throughout the project and helped prove for many on-lookers that America can work very well locally and hopefully nationally in the years to come. Many LEED features have been incorporated throughout the store from LED lights to the future installation of solar roof top power generation panels.
Carlos Illingworth, Manager Safeway Public Affairs and Government Relations said “This was a significant investment for Safeway. We did not receive any financial assistance from the city or other incentives.” “This state-of-the-art full service did not exist in the downtown area—until now.”
Visitors to the nearby marinas and convention center will be especially surprised by the new building, convenient parking, wide range of products and services and special amenities. The continuing downtown transformation will be supported by the new Vons, in major essential addition to downtown. In December, Broadway will be opened to new special green bike lanes across from this new store and bring in more residents and visitors to downtown.
Some departments and impressions include, Produce looks too good to eat but tastes terrific including organic salads were plentiful. Meat features a wide selection of Rancher’s Reserve beef (freshly grilled samples were excellent), seafood and poultry was fresh and well presented. The Signature Cafe features freshly prepared take out entrees and side dishes, winners include all the soups, meatloaf was well seasoned and moist, the gumbo was extra special. Bakery(new) freshly baked daily, European style breads and special desserts. The Deli(full service) a wide variety of meats, cheese, dips etc and appears to supply the Express Sandwich counter for the busy “ grab and go” customers with tasty sandwiches, food and beverages very quickly and friendly.
Wine and Beer sections were well stocked with special weekly prices noted. Pharmacy is greatly expanded and centrally located. Floral features everyday, seasonal and holiday floral designs with complimentary courtesy gift wrapping for the opening. Starbucks has an outlet to the left of the main entrance with coffee and espresso drinks being served along with other specialty drinks in a comfortable atmosphere complete with WiFi. The central aisles are packed with all the household products at good prices one needs to run a household and promoted with special pricing specials.
Vons had an interesting and informative three stage opening that started Wednesday, Dec 8 with the Children Today nonprofit benefit through a reception with food, drink, entertainment, tour of the store and engaging conversation with the people that help make this store a reality.
On Thursday afternoon, Dec 9 the ribbon cutting ceremony was held and the public was invited to a free “Preview Party,” to sample various products met the staffs and socialize until closing. On Friday morning, Dec 10 at 8 AM the store opened for business with brisk traffic then and throughout the weekend.
It looks as if the new Vons is off to a super start with an excellent store and happy customers. Safeway and Vons people must be pleased.
I think Charles Von der Ahe would be pleased to see his innovations are continuing through future generations and will be housed in a building that will still be standing at least another hundred years from now.