Fred Meyer workers hold soon-to-close celebration

Highlights include prizes, donation to Second Harvest

Tyler Tjomsland photo

Nate Cooper, center, who worked for five years at the soon-to-close Fred Meyer on East Francis Avenue in Spokane, carries a crate of peppers as he and other employees prepare food to be given out during a community thank-you party they held with Second Harvest Food Bank on Thursday in the parking lot. Cooper said he would continue working for Fred Meyer at the Wandermere store.

January 11, 2013 - Updated: 1:30 a.m.

Whatever business replaces the soon-vacating Fred Meyer in north Spokane will have large shoes to fill.

The retail and grocery store at 525 E. Francis will close Feb. 2 after 38 years. The company announced last year it failed to renew a lease with the property landlord.

On Thursday many of the store’s clerks, custodians, managers and department heads worked as volunteers during a three-hour celebration that included treats, door prizes and a donation of nearly $60,000 to Second Harvest Food Bank.

The event was the brainchild of the store’s 170 workers following news the store would shut down.

“At first the employees’ concern was, ‘What will happen to us?’ ” said Samantha Stout, the store’s human resources director.

“Then, when people realized none of them would lose their jobs, they started talking about some way to give back to our customers. Those are people we’ve come to know. Many come in the store the same time every day,” Stout said.

The money donated to the food bank came from contributions by store customers and by Fred Meyer workers, both at the Francis Avenue store and other stores in the area, said store Director Darin Gerimonte.

During the afternoon, Second Harvest and store volunteers also gave out more than 9,000 pounds of fresh food to people who visited the store.

Thursday’s distribution provided sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, beef, frozen hash browns and other produce to 853 people, including 165 seniors and almost 300 children and teens 18 and younger.

The gathering drew 67-year-old Royce Cuneo, who lives about a mile north of the store and who usually shops at the Wal-Mart in his neighborhood. But his wife wanted him to buy a few items at Fred Meyer, said Cuneo.

“I’ve lived up in this area since 1955,” Cuneo said. “The closing won’t change my shopping habits much. But I will miss having the store here.”

Joe Biles, who lives two blocks away in the Lyons Glenn townhouse complex, said he walked to the store every day. Biles, who’s 53, has severe tendonitis and lives on $488 a month from SSI.

“I’ll end up going to Albertsons or to the WinCo,” Biles said. “But I’m worried about the older residents up here. I see them walking every day from the retirement center, the Royal Plaza.

“They won’t be able to walk all the way to Albertsons,” Biles said.

The company that owns the property is a Seattle LLC, SMS Associates.

Jason Rosauer, a partner at the Seattle brokerage representing the owners, said SMS is eager to lease the 136,000-square-foot space for retail or commercial offices. It’s also willing to help convert the property to multifamily residential units, Rosauer said.

Property listing

The real estate broker for the Fred Meyer property has an online listing at www.spokane opportunity.com.

Map of this story's location

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