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.