If the county approves, this is how Rancho Murieta's new supermarket will look, Raley's announced Tuesday. And it won't be a Raley's; it will be a Bel Air, the company said. Click for larger image.
After a summer of rumors, Rancho Murieta was within a couple of signatures of having Plaza Foods reopened by an Ione supermarket operator, but he’s walking away from the near-final deal after a meeting Tuesday with Raley’s convinced him the supermarket chain is serious about opening its new store across the street within a year. Also, Raley’s said on Tuesday that it’s interested in trying to launch an interim store in Rancho Murieta – perhaps in Plaza Foods – until its new store is open. Raley’s said the new store will be a Bel Air and it has shared building drawings.
The Raley’s announcements came Tuesday afternoon in a phone call and email from Chelsea Minor, the company’s director of public relations and public affairs. She made three points:
Raley’s has submitted its plans to the county, including an updated drawing of the store, which is tentative and subject to county approval.
“At the request of the community, we have decided to go forward with a Bel Air Market in Rancho Murieta.”
“As for our ongoing commitment to provide access to quality food, we are exploring options to operate an interim location within the RM community prior to opening. Our target opening date will be October 2017.”
Doug Knutsen, a Murietan who has operated Ione Plaza Market for eight years, had been in talks for months with Maple Leaf Investments of San Jose, owner of the Murieta Plaza shopping center. Last week, after constantly changing tides of good news and bad news, he told RanchoMurieta.com the deal had been nailed down and he was within a signature or two of reopening Plaza Foods. The doors would be open by late November, he said.
On Tuesday, speaking after the Raley’s announcement, he said the deal was off.
Since the supermarket closed in July, and Knutsen’s own plans began to develop, he said he has made numerous calls to Raley’s to talk about its plans for Rancho Murieta and the community’s need for a store. He said he never got a call back.
“Out of the blue,” he said Tuesday, “they called me on Saturday and said they wanted to meet with me.”
Knutsen wouldn’t name the Raley’s official, but he said the high-ranking representative shared drawings and plans in a one-on-one meeting Tuesday afternoon at the shuttered Plaza Foods and convinced him Raley’s intends to be open by October 2017.
“They did play their card that ‘This is what we’re doing,’” Knutsen said, “‘and if you choose to do what you choose to do, just be aware that we’re going to be opening our doors 12 months from right now.’”
He said he told the Raley’s official, “I’m trying to open the store. But if you’re going to open in less than one year, I can’t open the store and do anything but lose money. ... All I could do is help the community for one year and go out of business.”
Murietan Doug Knutsen, operator of Ione's supermarket, wanted to open this fall in Plaza Foods.
Knutsen added, “He assured me they were going to make every effort to open (an interim operation in) Plaza Foods very soon, possibly in the next 30 days.”
Knutsen added, “When he indicated they ... wanted to open (Plaza Foods), I said, ‘Really? Great. I wish you’d done it 90 days ago, when (the previous owner) got out of here. Where’ve you been?’”
Minor responded by email Wednesday morning that indeed Raley’s met with Knutsen on Tuesday but she said the company does not discuss the specifics of private business meetings.
She added, “My statements about our commitment and interest in Rancho Murieta stand true – just as they did when we announced the store several months ago. We continue to explore options to serve the community in the interim, until our store is open in October 2017. We don't have a solution right now but continue to explore.”
Knutsen’s plans have been an open secret in the community, so much so that when Raley’s officials attended a Kiwanis Club meeting in Rancho Murieta in August, one of the audience questions was about the possibility.
“What happens from here, I don’t know,” Knutsen said Tuesday. “I threw my hat in the ring and it got stomped on. I’ve got nowhere to go with this other than to bow out, not even gracefully.”
A call to the landlord, Maple Leaf Investments, has not been returned.