Rosauers expansion promises more natural foods, take-out options

19 Aug

View of Rosauers expansion from the southwest, toward area where can and bottle recycling will be situated.

The Hood River Rosauers store must’ve been eating its own inventory, because it just keeps on growing. Opened back in 1969 at 30,000 square feet, the Heights destination is in the middle of an expansion that should take it to just over 50,000 square feet of floor space.

On a recent walking tour, assistant manager Doug Bohn spoke of several new features. The southerly expansion will create room for a bigger Huckleberry’s natural food section, including 48 feet of freezer space — going from 15 doors to 28 doors — and 60 feet more of refrigerator space.

Bohn says Huckleberry’s will also expand its bulk food options.

With such a significant expansion of the natural foods area, I asked company chief executive and president Jeff Philipps if Rosauers has given any thought to spinning off the Huckleberries section into a stand-alone store. The company has one stand-alone Huckleberry’s now, in Spokane.

“We just have the one freestanding store in Spokane, but we’re looking at ways to expand that format in other areas,” he said. “We need larger population density to support that.”

When studying the market area for a store, Rosauers looks inside a radius of 30-40 miles, which would include The Dalles as well as the communities of Binge, White Salmon, Cascade Locks and Stevenson.

The “new” meat department will lose the freezer cases north of the fresh counter. Those cases can be used as refrigerated space, and will be moved south for other product.

New freezer and refrigerator space at the back of the store will support the bakery and deli departments. Driven by customer demand for quick, take-out foods, Rosauers will expand the deli to offer a large olive bar, soups, cooked and take-out pizza, and cases to keep cooked chicken and other deli foods hot.

Foundation work shows where southern wall of expanded Rosauers store will be located, giving more interior space for refrigerated foods.

The beer and wine section will expand as well, to include more local products. Bottle recycling will move to the southwest corner of the store. A new sidewalk provides food access along the south side for residents living to the east of the store, so they don’t have to drive for a carton of milk and some corn flakes.

Philipps says the project is costing about $2.4 million, and the company is trying to hire as many local contractors as it can.

That’s just one aspect of its sustainability thinking. There’s another major addition under consideration. The Buzzer is excited to share that news with you, but told Philipps we would wait until the company firms up plans, probably within a couple of weeks. Stay tuned.

Maybe the best news for those of us who like to chat with our checkers, the company is not — I repeat, NOT — thinking about installing self-checkout lanes, like Safeway has done.

“We value the customer experience, and want to interact with the customer to make sure they’ve had a pleasant experience,” Philipps says. “And the only way to get that is one-to-one.

“At a certain point in time, you have to focus on who you are and what you stand for.”


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