They came by the dozens. Young and old.
Simultaneously clutching coupons and holding tightly onto their carts, they anxiously awaited for 10 a.m., when the store would officially open and they’d be able to shop — at the newest fresh & easy, in Rancho Cucamonga.
That was the scene Wednesday morning as fresh & easy finally opened up a new Inland Empire store. A pair of new stores, in fact, as a second new store in Riverside (4080 Madison St., at Arlington Avenue) also opened Wednesday.
Another new I.E. store (1631 E. Highland Ave., at Del Rosa Avenue, San Bernardino) opens next Wednesday (October 7).
At the designated time, employees and city officials came out to present a giant $1,000 check to representatives from Open Doors Now, a local charity which supports Asperger’s Syndrome and High-Functioning Autistic students, their families and educators. A fine choice.
After the check presentation, Rancho Cucamonga Mayor Don Kurth (I know it was him, because “Mayor Don Kurth” was embroidered on his shirt…unless he stole the shirt) cut the symbolic ribbon and the store was officially opened.
As the customers filtered into the store, they were treated to bite-sized bits of cinnamon rolls, peanut butter cookies and apple turnovers at the Kitchen Table, along with coffee and a strawberry-banana-veggie juice, which despite the description, was pretty tasty.
Customers picked over the produce, foraged through the frozen foods and checked out the cheese.
Employees also wandered the store, offering shoppers samples of various snacks: peanut butter-filled pretzels, yogurt-covered raisins, chocolate chip cookies, and the like.
At one point, the line stretched down one side of the store and all the way along the back wall, but with every checkstand open and employees helping customers scan their groceries, it moved rather quickly.
I caught up with Rancho Cucamonga reporter (and Dine 909 contributor) Wendy Leung as she was interviewing Roberto Muoz, fresh & easy’s director of neighborhood affairs.
When asked about competitor Trader Joe’s, which also has a location in Rancho Cucamonga, he basically said that the company doesn’t pay much attention to other stores. The company does, however, pay attention (and respond) to feedback from their customers.
He mentioned that the stores had stopped selling cupcakes because sales were low, but because the customers who were buying the cupcakes loved them so much and requested they be brought back, they were. About two weeks after they were discontinued.
That’s a quick response.
He also said that they are constantly tweaking their offerings in response to customer trends: they’ve added family-sized portions of their prepared foods, for example. They’ve also launched low-price brands that are exclusive to fresh & easy, but comparable in quality to national brands.
I only had one question for him: When?
When would the Loma Linda, Rialto, Moreno Valley, and other completed stores finally be open? I was hoping to be able to provide you all with a scoop, but alas, he gave me no definitive answer.
In a nutshell, the stores will open when fresh & easy decides it’s time to open them.
They have scaled back from their original expansion plans, but are continuing to open about a store a week at a time when the economy is still flatlining.
So it’s just a matter of time, Loma Linda. You’ll just have to be patient, Rialto. Moreno Valley? I don’t know what you’re complaining about, you’ve already got two fresh & easy stores!