City Manager Gary Milliman gets enough calls about rumors, but one he gets so frequently, he’s given it a name: The Fred Meyer Myth.
The myth is that the city has an agreement with Kroger (Fred Meyer) whereby the city limits retail competition in the community.
“To be clear, there has never been such an agreement,” Milliman said. “The caller this week told me the city stopped Winco from coming to town because of this purported non-competition agreement.”
He added, “I have also heard reports that Ray’s Market remains empty because the city will not allow a competing market or department store to reoccupy the space. And that stores like CVS, Walgreens and Big 5 Sporting Goods were ‘forced’ to build in Crescent City because of the Fred Meyer protectionism.”
He’s also heard that Trader Joe’s is moving into the supermarket formerly occupied by Ray’s Foods — or Trader Joe’s couldn’t get a permit to move into Rays. He’s heard that the leasing company plans to build apartments atop the space formerly occupied by Shop Smart in Harbor. He’s heard it all, he said.
Milliman has this to say to those who get such news on social media, where the Fred Meyer Myth has been lurking: Here are some things to consider:
•Retailers make their own decision on where to locate based upon a number of factors, including competition, population, community median income, state and local tax policies, land affordability, workforce availability and availability of land of sufficient size.
“Take a look at the land (occupied) by Winco in Grants Pass and try to identify a similar site in Brookings,” Milliman said. “One reason several big-name retailers have gone to Crescent City recently is the availability of big pieces of flat land served by utilities at comparatively low cost.”
The property Ray’s Food formerly occupied is now owned and managed by Browman Development Company of Walnut Creek, California.
“I’ve told them that the community would welcome another food market, or a store like Ross,” Milliman said. “Browman’s business is as a leasing agent for large retail complexes. They interact every day with major retailers, including Ross, Safeway, Trader Joe’s and others that Brookings residents have told me they would like to see there. Browman is trying to get the space re-occupied.”
Browman reported that the space is too small and parking is limited at Ray’s for most major retailers.
Vacant buildings are hard to fill, as well, Milliman said, adding that constructing identical buildings is a proven template that makes it easier to open a store quickly.
And further, Milliman said, “A non-competition agreement would likely be illegal. Private landowners can enter into such agreements (i.e. an agreement whereby the new owner agrees not to rent or operate a competing business for a number of years).
“And, it took Bi-Mart more than 10 years to find a location to build its store in Brookings,” he continued. “And this only happened because the city helped assemble a parcel of adequate size for the project.”
Land availability for a major retailer is tight in Brookings, he added.
“Unless a developer is willing to buy out multiple properties and do a lot of demolition, there are virtually no sites,” he said. “While the city can influence development through zoning and land use policies, the city does not pick which retailers locate here, and the city has not enacted any exclusionary practices. The city would like to see the Ray’s Market space reoccupied, and we have let Browman know that we are willing to work with them.”