Everything must go – Now what? | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Everything must go – Now what?

Susan Wood
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Betty McNeer, who said she shopped at Albertsons for 20 years, loads bargains into her car Wednesday. "I will miss this store and the employees; it's a shame," McNeer said.

As many await the uncertain future of the building that housed Albertsons Supermarket, about a third of its 62 employees remain undecided on their career path as the Al Tahoe Boulevard store prepares to close by Sunday.

The store was bought about two months ago by Cerberus Capital Management, an investment firm that gobbled up 655 stores in California, Nevada, Texas, Florida and Colorado. The states that border Lake Tahoe had 168 stores, and the company closed 37 under-performing locations.

In a three-way deal involving discounter Supervalu Inc. and drug store chain CVS Corp., Cerberus’ original intent to buy up these stores was announced in January.

Soon after, Albertsons journeyman Cathy Hunn said the corporation announced in a memorandum that it would not make changes. That all changed in June, and after more than eight years, Hunn will find herself without a job on Monday morning.

“It was a big shock. I planned to stay there,” she said.

Hunn transferred here from a Bay Area Lucky store, and Albertsons bought the supermarket from American Stores in 1999.

Hunn said she’s depressed and is losing sleep about her working environment because she’s uncertain about where she’ll go for work and whether she’ll stay in Tahoe. She’s lived here for 20 years.

Transferring to the Tahoe City and Truckee stores seems out of the question because the commute “is too far,” said Hunn, who owns a home here. “I’m hoping I don’t have to move.”

While six employees transferred to the Tahoe City Albertsons, 18 have joined the local Raley’s and Safeway. She hasn’t ruled that out. Four people have retired, and a dozen employees have left the grocery industry.

For those staying, Safeway said it would still hire. And Raley’s Store Manager Bob Lear said Wednesday he had planned to visit Albertsons to recruit more staffers.

“We could definitely use them,” he said.

Lear said he understands the uncertain business climate and plight of employees.

“The question becomes: How does one survive on three to four good months in Lake Tahoe?” he said.

That might be in the back of Rite Aid’s Store Manager Richard Bennett’s mind. Because the anchor store is leaving the center, Bennett said he’s stocking up on more snack foods and vitamins to pick up the slack.

“People have been asking us about it,” he said.

Energy drinks and ice cream have been added to the inventory in the 30,000-square-foot store next to Albertsons. With a 10,000-square-foot warehouse, Bennett believes he has breathing room to bring in more additions.

For now, customers have filed into the Albertsons store looking for deals and buying up what’s left.

Arian Bard picked up spices and wine.

Bard, who lives near the American Legion Hall, said she’ll miss the supermarket and hopes another takes its place eventually.

Phone calls to the investment firm’s project manager Mark Unger were unreturned.

Some of the Albertsons stores that have closed have been replaced by Whole Foods and Staples in their locations. On the latter: Been there, done that. Staples closed from its “Y” location a few years ago.

Frank Susztar said he understands how difficult it is to do business in Tahoe. He owned a diner near the “Y” before he sold the property to Paul Bruso of Ernie’s Coffee Shop.

“I hate to see a business go out. I’m sorry people are out of a job,” he said. With all its regulations, he equated the business climate at South Shore to old Russia.

The numbers

Albertsons Supermarket, 1030 Al Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe

Opened as grocery store: 1974

Close date: Sunday

Employees: 62

Known jobless: A third of the employees or about 20

Transferred to Tahoe City Albertsons: 6

Hired by area Raley’s and Safeway: 18

Status of building: Undetermined

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