Hurry Up and Wait: Avalon’s New Vons Market

Plans to expand island’s only big box supermarket to move at a snail’s pace.

AVALON — Catalina Island prides itself on essentially being a safe haven for unique personalities and small town charm. Avalon, for example, is home to three chain or franchise businesses amidst a myriad of mom-and-pop storefronts: Bluewater Grill, U.S. Bank and Vons. One of those mainland-based companies has been trying to consolidate and expand its operations on the island, but the process has been moving about as slowly as the DMV-working sloth in the film Zootopia.

The Vons operation at Avalon, for those who aren’t savvy, is currently split into two locations within blocks of each other  – one at 123 Metropole Avenue and the other, an Express store, at 120 Catalina Avenue.

Vons opened its Metropole Avenue location in 1987; Vons Express launched in 1999 after the supermarket chain purchased Fred and Sally one year earlier, Avalon’s only other grocery store at the time.

Plans to combine both stores into a larger location have been in the works for a few years now. Vons’ parent company, Safeway (a subsidiary of Albertsons since 2014), purchased land off of Beacon Street, in hopes of consolidating both Vons locations into one larger store. The Board of Directors of the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau unanimously supported plans for the new Vons.

The supermarket chain was subject of a federal lawsuit several years ago, when the state of California and U.S. Department of Justice jointly sued Safeway, alleging violations of anti-monopoly laws by establishing only one grocery market in Avalon. A federal court, in 2006, ruled the monopoly claim was valid. The only place boaters can buy groceries while visiting Avalon, after all, is at either of the two Vons locations.

The Log has consistently been reporting about the new Vons location on Beacon Street since July 2015. Two years has passed and next to nothing has changed. Construction was supposed to start in April, according to our recent coverage of the corporate grocer’s plans – but the project appears to be at a standstill three months later, based on City Manager David Jinkens’ most recent city management update.

“The City Council and Avalon community is very interested in the timeframe for construction and completion of the new Vons store,” Jinkens wrote in his July 2 update. He invited Robert Miller, CEO and Chairman of Albertsons, to send a representative to the island and address the public on the project.

“A letter written on June 29, 2017 requested Mr. Miller’s assistance to have a knowledgeable representative attend the July 18, 2017 meeting of the City Council to make a presentation,” Jinkens’ update continued. “We are all anxious to learn of their company’s progress.”

Whether anyone from Vons or Albertsons actually attends the upcoming July 18 meeting remains to be seen, but the situation appears to be an interesting case of role reversal. Normally it’s the private sector anxiously awaiting the slow wheels of governmental bureaucracy to turn.

Now it appears a public sector is sitting on pins and needles, awaiting the go-ahead from the insides of some Corporate America conference room. Oh the irony.

Of course we don’t fully know why the Vons project has not yet taken off. There was some talk of incorporating noise mitigation during construction and all parties involved trying to fulfill certain conditions.

Construction work, nonetheless, has not yet started on the new Vons – despite previous reports in The Log citing a desire to move the project along as quickly as possible.

Perhaps the Vons project needs a push from the public.

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Standing Watch/Take Action

In this section you will find resources and supplemental information on what you can do to Take Action. Submit additional information or tips on this issue to editor@thelog.com

When will the new Vons finally take flight? Can Avalon’s boaters, business owners, residents and visitors do anything to push the process along? Reaching out to Avalon’s public officials is certainly one option. Let them know your position on the new store. Should the city push harder to bring the new Vons online? Are you frustrated with how all parties involved are handling the matter? Is the project taking too long to realize? Perhaps you think the current setup is working out just fine.

Share your thoughts with Avalon’s elected, appointed and hired leaders.

Avalon City Hall

310-510-0220

Mayor Anni Marshall

AMarshall@cityofavalon.com

Mayor Pro Tem Oley Olsen

WFOlsen@cityofavalon.com

Council member Joe Sampson

jsampson@cityofavalon.com

Council member Cinde Cassidy

ccassidy@cityofavalon.com

Council member Richard Hernandez

rhernandez@cityofavalon.com

City Manager David Jinkens

djinkens@cityofavalon.com

State Senator Ben Allen

senator.allen@senate.ca.gov

310-318-6994

Twitter: @BenAllenCA

Assembly member Patrick O’Donnell

assemblymember.o’donnell@assembly.ca.gov

310-548-6420

Twitter: @AsmPatODonnell

Supervisor Janice Hahn

fourthdistrict@bos.lacounty.gov

213-974-4444

Twitter: @SupJaniceHahn