Update 8:04 p.m. Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market representatives released the following statement Wednesday afternoon on the grocer chain's Facebook page:
You may have read today that our parent company, Tesco, has announced a ‘strategic review’ of fresh&easy. We wanted to reassure you, as our friends and greatest supporters, that we are open for business as usual and we look forward to bringing the same delicious, wholesome, and affordable food and the same great service that you have come to expect from us every day.
We appreciate all of the support and affirmations of “We ♥ fresh&easy” from our community of team members, neighbors and customers that we’ve been seeing today!
Posted 3:34 p.m. The British supermarket corporation that owns Fresh & Easy grocery stores announced Wednesday it is likely pulling out of the U.S. market, which could mean it will sell its stores, including the vacant one in Loma Linda.
The Fresh & Easy on Yucaipa Boulevard in Yucaipa was open for business Wednesday.
Konrad Bolowich, economic development director for Loma Linda, said he's disappointed any time a business is less than successful, but there's been a lot of interest in the vacant Fresh & Easy store's prime location, at Redlands Boulevard and Mountain View Avenue.
"They built the store in their rapid expansion phase, in 2007 or 2008," Bolowich said in a phone interview Wednesday. "It is outfitted down to the cash registers, waiting for money to come in, and it was never opened. It was never occupied by another tenant.
"We've had people interested in that site for other stores and we've directed them to Fresh & Easy," Bolowich said. "Their management has always told us they were intending to open that store, even after they removed the signage a year and a half ago."
Bolowich said he last spoke to a Fresh & Easy representative at the end of the summer or September this year.
"I call them every couple months to check," Bolowich said. "The last I've heard form them is they intend to open."
The location at Redlands Boulevard and Mountain View Avenue is considered a prime retail corner, Bolowich said.
"It's a beautiful building, a premium corner, and at least a dozen different parties have showed interest in that site," Bolowich said. "There's still undeveloped land there for a gas station and storefronts for inline shops.
"It's disappointing any time a business is less than successful, but at the same time it's a great opportunity for the city to have someone else come in and take advantage of that site," Bolowich said.
Fresh & Easy's website states the business operates 199 stores in California, Arizona and Nevada.
"We have created more than 5,000 jobs, with over 4,000 in California," the Fresh & Easy website states.
Earlier today, the BBC reported Fresh & Easy's parent company, Tesco, was launching a strategic review that may lead to the sale or closure of its U.S.-based Fresh & Easy chain.
Also earlier today, CNN Money in London reported the Fresh & Easy chain had been put up for sale, as U.K. retail powerhouse Tesco admitted defeat in its attempt to take on established supermarkets in the United States.
On the East Coast, the New York Times reported Tesco had been approached by several parties to buy all or parts of Fresh & Easy, and Tesco said it might also team up with other companies.