Wal-Mart close to opening Neighborhood Market in Vancouver, plans another at old Fred Meyer site

Smaller stores focus on groceries

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter


photoEmployees Shelby Johnson, foreground, Rebecca Jennings, back left, and Stuart Lee stock shelves with food at the new Walmart Neighborhood Market.
photoVancouver's new Walmart Neighborhood Market in the Vancouver Plaza shopping center takes up a smaller footprint than its predecessor, WinCo Foods, a no-frills grocery competitor that moved to a nearby location in 2008.
photo"We're receiving freight and getting ready to welcome customers." Troy Hannah Store manager of the new Walmart Neighborhood Market

(/The Columbian)

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photoAn upgraded exterior and newly paved parking lot are part of the makeover of a former WinCo Foods store that has become Vancouver's first Walmart Neighborhood Market, set to open in mid-July.

Walmart Neighborhood Market

What: Vancouver’s first Walmart grocery-only concept store, opening July 17 at Vancouver Plaza.

Where: 7809 N.E. Vancouver Plaza Drive.

Employees: 65 to 80.

What’s next: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has submitted plans for a second Neighborhood Market at a former Fred Meyer store site on Fourth Plain Boulevard and Grand Avenue.

Just as it is about to open Vancouver's first Neighborhood Market store at Vancouver Plaza, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is moving forward with plans for another of its small stores in the city.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer is named on final site plans for a grocery store on the former Fred Meyer site at Fourth Plain Boulevard and Grand Avenue. Wal-Mart officials have long declined to comment on the site. Its plans, now being reviewed by the city, call for construction of a 41,100-square-foot store that would border East 20th Street with an expansive parking area stretching to Fourth Plain. The company confirmed its plans to The Columbian on Friday, with a spokesman saying the store is expected to open next year.

In the meantime, workers at the new store at 7809 N.E. Vancouver Plaza Drive are stocking that 42,000-square-foot store's shelves with nonperishable foods. Frozen foods, dairy, meat and produce will arrive at the last minute, said Troy Hannah, store manager.

"We're receiving freight and getting ready to welcome customers," Hannah said.

The store will open at 8 a.m. July 17.

Smaller than Walmart's SuperCenter concept, its Neighborhood Market stores are designed for smaller spaces to bring affordable groceries to residential areas. The food-only stores have just recently been introduced to the Portland-Vancouver metro area, said Hannah, who previously opened a similar store in West Linn, Ore.

The new Vancouver Plaza store also will offer a pharmacy, bakery and deli and employ a staff of between 65 and 80 employees, Hannah said.

"You won't find TVs or clothing and shoes," he said.

Hannah said Wal-Mart also plans to carry some locally grown fruits and vegetables in its large produce area on the east side of the store, just inside the front doors. Other local suppliers could include the Franz Bakery and Frito Lay, along with Dave's Killer Bread and several locally crafted beers.

"We're going to carry some local microbrews," said Hannah, who has spent the past month and a half hiring staff and is now overseeing preparations for the store's grand opening.

He said store bakery and deli workers will begin next week to get lessons in Walmart food preparation.

"They'll bake and make chicken and sandwiches," he said. Test-run foods will be offered during employee training sessions, some of which are online courses conducted via remote session.

Hannah, 42, has spent three years working for a range of Wal-Mart store concepts. Among others, he has worked for the neighborhood market store model and Wal-Mart's big-box — 100,000 square feet or larger — SuperCenter store. He would rather work in the smaller stores, which tend to be more personal.

"I prefer these (neighborhood) stores for the interactions with people," he said.

The new store will have five regular check-out stands and four self-serve check stands.

At 42,000 square feet, the store has a much smaller footprint than the 70,000-square-foot space once occupied by WinCo Foods. The Boise, Idaho-based no-frills grocer moved to a nearby location in 2008.

The unused retail space could be the home of a new retailer, said Don DeSalvo, of the Cafaro Northwest Partnership, which owns Vancouver Plaza. However, DeSalvo would not disclose the tenant's name.

"We will be able to say something in the next couple of weeks," he said.

In addition to the new Walmart store, Vancouver Plaza's tenants include Target; Dollar Tree; Bed, Bath & Beyond; Harbor Freight; Plato's Closet; Barnes & Noble Booksellers; Office Max; Enterprise Rent-A-Car; Learning Palace; GNC Nutrition; Super Nails; Sally Beauty; Verizon; Payless Shoes; and the Washington departments of Revenue and Corrections.

The center's restaurants are Taco Bell, Burgerville, IHOP pancake house, Boppin' Bo's, Chuck E. Cheese and Hometown Buffet.