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'Save Our Store,' Bel Air Customers Plead

A couple dozen shoppers join Sunday morning protest.

At 7:30 on a chilly Sunday morning, while many Elk Grovians were still snug in their beds, Sherri Simunich was standing outside , waving a sign that read, 'Save Our Store.'

Simunich and about two dozen of her neighbors had gathered to protest at 8787 Elk Grove Blvd by March. While Raley’s calls the store “underperforming” compared to the company’s three other Elk Grove locations, locals say they’ll miss its friendly service and the convenience of having a full-service grocery within walking distance.

"It's our community store, it's been here over 30 years, and we don't want it to close,” said Simunich, 48, who organized the Sunday rally. Behind her, protesters chanted, “We care! Save Bel Air.”

Protesters said the store serves senior citizens and others with limited mobility who live nearby and wouldn’t be able to drive even a few miles to another supermarket.

“I know a gentleman in a wheelchair who lives down the street and comes here to get his groceries,” said Diane Araiza, an employee who frequents the store. “Where is he going to shop?”

Others at the rally cited their sentimental attachment to a store they’d shopped at for decades.

“Our kids learned to count and do math here,” said Tom Dove, 54, who stopped by with his wife Ronie. “There are kids that were raised with ours and now we see them working here.”

In a neighborhood that rarely sees protests, Dove said this was one cause that inspired him to pick up a picket sign.

“I’m not an Occupier type,” he said. “I’m 54 and I’ve never held a sign for anything. But here I am.”

Like other customers at the rally, the Doves said they might drive the extra distance to shop at another Bel Air—or they might take their business to a competitor like WinCo Foods in search of lower prices.

Some protesters expressed concern that businesses were fleeing Elk Grove’s historic center for shopping centers on the outskirts of town.

“It’s taking away a store in central Elk Grove and all the stores are going to be on the perimenter,” sad Pamela Baker, a 30-year resident of the neighborhood. “There’s going to be nothing here for the people that have been here for years.”

Raley’s told Elk Grove Patch earlier in the week that increased competition in the local grocery market had played a role in the decision to shutter the store.

“It’s getting really difficult to be able to compete unless we can reduce our operating costs,” said John Segale, a spokesperson for the West Sacramento-based chain. “The feeling was that this was an area that could best be handled by the other stores we have there.”

Simunich, who lives down the street from the store, said she was “stunned” to learn of the planned closure earlier in the week and went online to vent her feelings. “Someone said, ‘What about an old-fashioned protest?’ and I said, ‘Yeah!’ ”

Simunich organized the rally through online message boards and Facebook, and by 8:30 a.m. Sunday had collected close to 50 signatures on a homemade petition asking that the store be kept open. Shoppers also vented their frustration on Raley’s Facebook page.

The rally was set to last until early evening Sunday.

“It’s nice to hear that we have some support,” said one store employee who spoke briefly with Elk Grove Patch. “I don’t know that it’s going to help us.”

Raley’s has said some of the store’s 81 workers will be eligible to transfer to other locations, while others will lose their jobs. The workers are represented by Local 8 of the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

The employee, who like other Raley's workers was barred by management from giving media interviews, said that he would be able to transfer to another store but added that it wouldn’t be the same.

Some employees had already moved to other stores, he said.

Segale, the Raley's spokesperson, said Sunday that the protest and petition drive “is definitely a sign of the type of community support we’ve seen throughout the company.”

 “But at this time the decision is still final.”

Like Elk Grove Patch on Facebook to follow this story.

M.Legison January 15, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Looks like a few bored Democrats that feel entitled to "their" store. Surprised the "people over profits" and "save the children" signs weren't out for this one.
Mark Paxson January 15, 2012 at 09:26 PM
You're too funny.
Bwood January 16, 2012 at 02:41 AM
The Occupy Bel-Air crowd …..?
Elk Grove Laguna Forums January 16, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Completely different crowd. I don't think these are the occupy type. The demographic at that store is older, likely more conservative. I know the clientele is much older than the other stores. The subdivisions near it seem to have a lot of older familes and elderly people that shop there. It's too bad it's closing as it will force them to shop elsewhere. Too much competition and less kids in that area means less mouths to feed.
Connie Conley January 16, 2012 at 11:50 PM
The closing of this Bel Air on Elk Grove Blvd. will be a major blow to our community, not to mention the residents, mostly elderly, who rely on that store. Having it close, would it be another signal that if Elk Grove cannot even sustain a grocery store on Elk Grove Blvd. East of 99, the entrance to Old Town, what about other businesses? The Elk Grove City Council is giving out millions in incentives to bring new businesses to Elk Grove. Why not incentives to keep a business open? The city hired Randy Starbuck as the city’s new economic development director. Did he contact Michael Teel and/or the property owner to try and work something out? The civic center or the "new downtown" is at least 20 years away. Staff and council must do everything possible to maintain what we have because the "face" of Elk Grove cannot be one whereby we focus on the outer core, even wanting to expand, and ignore the original heart of the city which is Elk Grove Blvd. East of 99.
JJ Johnson January 17, 2012 at 08:09 AM
Older part of town, generally older people who have lived in Elk Grove for generations, and the only real supermarket between 99 and Old Town. Not the type of thing for Occupy.
JJ Johnson January 17, 2012 at 08:14 AM
Since you attend the City Council meetings, you know that the incentives are only for dealers at the automall and state agencies that can provide Davis, Detrick, and others in your posse with some money and potential votes for the November election. But you live in the rural area. Unless Sheldon Feed and Supply or Bert's Diner is closing down, why would you care?
Bwood January 17, 2012 at 03:30 PM
To those it may concern, I was expressing some sarcasm with my "Occupy" comment. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any way to show that with text...
Bwood January 17, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Connie, are you suggesting then that EG should essentially "bailout" the Bel-Air store? Don't think that's gonna happen.
Connie Conley January 17, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Snide comments aside JJ which contribute nothing to the discussion, I believe in the importance of working with existing businesses to support economic development in our community. It is something that the city council and the new economic development director should explore. There are many who believe this Bel Air is still needed in the community and there is a need for a retention program as part of our local economic development strategy.
Bwood January 17, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Although I might agree with you in principle, throwing incentive money at an "underperforming" Bel-Air store or some such, isn't going to solve the problem. Besides, after spending $4.2M on CCHCS and giving Ford $500K, how much money is left?
Tom Waltman January 18, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Whoa, hold on guys. Let's stay on track here. This is MY neighborhood, and yes, the folks here are older, mostly long-term Elk Grove residents. This is not the "Occupy" crowd. This is a group who actually do live, eat, and shop local. Losing this store will seriously hurt both the residents and the neighborhood. It will force even more traffic down EG Blvd to Waterman, and force many older residents to find alternative ways to shop. Many people walk to that store daily. We have a very close-knit community here, and this will impact our quality of life. We will work to find a solution. If the store is "under-performing," then we need to help Raleys find a way to increase its performance. I don't expect them to lose money on their operations, but I also don't expect them to head in the direction of slash and burn. That is not their MO. There are ways to getting both sides what they need without bailouts. Raleys is a good community partner, and they get the value of engaging when this kind of thing comes up. Deep breath.
Bwood January 18, 2012 at 06:50 PM
"If the store is "under-performing," then we need to help Raleys find a way to increase its performance." Just who is "we," and where were all of you when Ralph's and Pack N' Save failed? They were both on Elk Grove Boulevard ….
Tom Waltman January 18, 2012 at 10:15 PM
"We" are the people who live here in the area. Sorry, I wasn't around for the other stores. I am here now, and there are a few people like me who will speak up. What do YOU want here?
Bwood January 18, 2012 at 10:22 PM
"What do YOU want here?" It doesn't matter to me. I consider myself a temporary citizen of EG.
Tom Waltman January 18, 2012 at 10:44 PM
Got it. Thanks.
JJ Johnson January 18, 2012 at 11:35 PM
Bwood, life is temporary. But while we are here, we can lay down and do nothing or we can take action. That it doesn't matter to you shows you're just online for the sake of making comments and not to help keep a store open in an area where many people live and shop.
Bwood January 19, 2012 at 05:14 PM
"That it doesn't matter to you shows you're just online for the sake of making comments and not to help keep a store open in an area where many people live and shop." Well, Tom and JJ, what exactly is it you two are doing by posting your opinions here? If you think that is going to keep the Bel-Air store open, then more power to you and we'll see...
Connie Conley January 19, 2012 at 05:54 PM
After about a week, and several "requests," we finally received this response from Elk Grove City Manager Laura Gill, "Staff has spoken with representatives of Raley's/Bel Air and the property owner. Each party is acting in its company's best interests, which results in the closure of the Bel Air. The property owners are actively in negotiations with another grocery chain to occupy the space. Staff has offered assistance to and will meet regularly with both parties." [End of copy] So who the "other grocery store chain is," don't know. But are there that many left?
Felicia Mello January 19, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Interesting, Connie. Will see what I can find out about who might be going into that space.

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