So, if you've been driving down Redlands Boulevard as of late, you may have noticed some changes going on at one of my favorite sites -- the empty Fresh & Easy at the corner of Mountain View Avenue.
And the latest changes don't bode well for the grocery chain's future in Loma Linda.
The long empty, never opened location has been used over the past year as a one-stop shop for the chain to get replacement parts for other locations. And I guess another location needed some signs.
Because the building's signs, covered up since last June, are no longer in Loma Linda.
Which means one of two things:
- Exciting new signs will be coming soon, when they decide to open the location; or
- They're not coming at all.
I reached out to the company's spokesman by email Tuesday after driving by and seeing the missing signs. His response was that nothing had changed and there was still no timetable for it to open.
But if I were to put a timetable on Fresh & Easy coming to that location, I'd say it was slim to none, and slim's got his bags packed and headed out the door.
I suppose it shouldn't come as a surprise. The economy is what will be blamed. Fresh & Easy tried to expand into Southern California at the exact worst time possible. And in San Bernardino County, you could magnify that ten-fold.
But it's still frustrating to have seen it sitting there, especially in this city -- one that has been crying out over the past year about wanting more healthy, family friendly options. For it to not have even opened and tested the market seems like a waste. Reminds me of a quote attributed to Wayne Gretzky: "You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take."
Now, the devil could be in the details, and the wording at this point: That location.
It could be -- and I'm just spitballing -- that Fresh & Easy could be holding out for a spot in the proposed shopping center on Mountain View and Barton Road -- the so-called "McDonald's" center.
It's long been reported that the developers of that center have been negotiating with a specialty grocer -- one I had figured for Sprouts, since Whole Foods has been courting Redlands and Fresh & Easy already had its location.
But could it be Fresh & Easy? It would make sense from the grocer's point of view. That center will have other shops around it -- rather than the free-standing building -- and it will have another key element: People.
As situated now at Redlands and Mountain View, the amount of surrounding homes isn't as strong as it would be by going over the railroad tracks to Mountain View and Barton. And this is Southern California, we'll drive a few extra blocks to get to the store we want.
So this COULD be a transistion period. We'll just have to wait and see. It still has been frustrating seeing the building there taunting us. Now, at least, the signs won't be there to taunt us.
But if my little guess is wrong, then they'll have missed out on a market that they could have thrived in.
And it's their loss.