Grocery Outlet fills the grocery gap in North Redondo
by David Mendez
Artesia Boulevard has a supermarket again. Grocery Outlet finally opened its doors last Thursday, June 6, filling a long-empty gap for those who missed having a supermarket near the intersection of Artesia and Rindge Road. Grocery Outlet, and its building-mate CVS Pharmacy, take over the long-vacant space that once held a Haggen, an Albertsons and — once upon a time — a Lucky’s market.
“I’m just thrilled there’s a grocery store there; much better than that empty lot, that’s for sure,” said Redondo Beach Councilwoman Laura Emdee, who was at the store’s friends-and-family soft opening on Wednesday evening.
Store owners Steve Uhrinak and Karie Stepanski agree; the husband-and-wife team has worked to open the store for the better part of the last year. It’s not the first time that the two have worked in that building; both worked at the Albertsons supermarket that eventually became a Haggen before ultimately closing in 2016.
“It’s awesome; there’s nothing better than being close to home, and it’s always been a great location,” said Uhrinak. In recent years, he and Stepanski worked at a Long Beach-area Grocery Outlet, commuting from Redondo.
“When you live that far away, it makes it difficult to participate in things…it was a lot harder to be involved in the community to the degree we’d like to be. But here, we’re right down the street.”
It was a busy night for the husband-and-wife team, as they worked to ensure that shelves were attractively stocked, fronted customer questions and greeted friends. The night wasn’t perfect — at one point, Uhrinak noticed a shoplifter from the corner of his eye and quickly sped off to the store’s office to note the time of the theft. He could only shrug after, before fruitlessly helping a customer try to find vegetarian hot dogs.
By virtue of Grocery Outlet’s model, its stores don’t have every item, from every brand, every day of the week (such as veggie-based frankfurters). Most supermarkets, Uhrinak said, have more than 20,000 items on their shelves. Grocery Outlets have about 6,000.
“Look at our cheeses: you’re going to see Kraft, Sargento, name brands,” Uhrinak said. “But not every brand in every variety.”
Though the store may lack in diversity, that’s made up in discounted price — stores order products from a catalog of deals negotiated between Grocery Outlet’s buyers and suppliers; items marked down by 50 percent or more from retail prices are prominently advertised, and cashiers would occasionally announce when customers saved more than $100 over another market’s retail prices.
More important to some neighbors is the fact that convenience is back.
“I’ve had to get to Jon’s, on 190th, or to Vons…I used to have to go 15 minutes just to run errands, now it’s one minute,” said Kitty Spencer, who lives about a block away. “They have enough of everything that I’ll come here a lot.”
That combination of factors — convenience, quality and a promise of lower prices — is what Uhrinak and Stepanski are banking on.
“There are really no great alternatives around — you’ve got Trader Joe’s, Gelson’s, Whole Foods, a lot of really pricey retailers,” Uhrinak said. “People don’t like to throw their money away…I think it’s something people are going to gravitate towards because of the value they see here.”