New Seasons eyes 2nd county store

Organic grocer’s first site to open in Oct.

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

 

Even before New Seasons Market opens its first Vancouver store, the company’s leader has good news for devotees of the organic grocery chain.

Its planned site in east Vancouver won’t be Clark County’s only location, said Lisa Sedlar, chief executive officer of the Portland-based string of 10 New Seasons stores. The company expects an October grand opening for its $4.5 million to $5 million store in the former Albertsons space on the northwest corner of Southeast 164th Avenue and McGillivray Boulevard.

Sedlar has been made aware of another vacated Albertsons in Vancouver, on the northeast corner of Hazel Dell Avenue and Northeast 99th Street. New Seasons has not leased the site, but Albertsons has removed its fixtures and both properties are jointly owned by Vancouver’s Oliva family and Tualatin, Ore.-based Gramor Development.

“We’re going to open the first store and then see what happens,” Sedlar said during a recent tour of New Seasons’ 6-year-old store off North Interstate Avenue in Portland.

New Seasons Market

What: To open its first Vancouver store this fall in a 40,000-square-foot former Albertsons grocery store space on the corner of Southeast 164th Avenue and McGillivray Boulevard.

Employees: 200.

What’s next: Portland-based New Seasons expects to open another Clark County store.

She does not expect the Vancouver store to resemble any of the chain’s other 10 stores.

For instance, the company’s urban-chic Hawthorne Boulevard store has rooftop parking and generous space for bicyclists to lock up their two-wheelers.

The North Interstate Avenue store features pedestrian walkways through its small parking lot and a roof-top bioswale where captured rainwater nourishes greenery and skylights bathe the building in natural light.

Sedlar said similar elements could be infused into Vancouver’s store, despite its decidedly suburban setting.

“When we open a store we make sure to meet with the neighbors and ask, ‘What’s important to you?’” said Sedlar, who has overseen the operation since 2005.

In December, Sedlar replaced Brian Rohter, the company’s former chief executive and one of its three founders who dreamed grocery shopping could be easy and support local farmers.

Stores feature natural foods and produce alongside nonorganic offerings such as Lucky Charms cereal. Sedlar said New Seasons is known for its prepared-foods deli, organic bakery and locally produced meats, and in-season vegetables and fruits.

“We’re not the food police,” Sedlar said. “We carry both organic and conventional food because most families eat this way.”

Sedlar said storewide sales in 2008 seesawed from double-digit growth to a flat-line position. In 2010, the company leveraged its way out with a partial buyout from private equity firm, the Washington Public Employees’ Retirement System.

“We didn’t lay off any staff members because we knew it would be very difficult for them,” Sedlar said, describing New Seasons’ business model as one that balances the needs of customers, employees and suppliers.

“I know it sounds too good to be true, but this is the way people did business before it was all about maximizing the bottom-line profit,” she said.

Sedlar expects New Seasons’ sales to reach an all-time high in 2011, along with Vancouver’s new store opening and a new store in Beaverton, Ore., at the new Progress Ridge shopping center, being developed by Gramor.

Local meat producers and farmers supply 10,000 items out of the 30,000 products sold by New Seasons, Sedlar said.

“Our lamb comes from Riddle, Ore., which is about 150 miles away, instead of lamb from New Zealand that’s 7,000 miles away,” she said.