Citizen Staff Writer
Southwest Markets here to be Food City
Bashas’ will convert the stores, catering to the Hispanic market, by Saturday.
By TEYA VITU
Citizen Business Writer
Tucson’s Hispanic community won’t lose the grocery stores that catered to its needs as Bashas’ announced yesterday it purchased Tucson’s remaining six Southwest Supermarkets for conversion into Food City stores.
Bashas’ owns the Hispanic-oriented Food City chain and bought a total of 22 Southwest stores Monday for $9 million in a bankruptcy auction in Tempe.
The purchase includes fixtures, equipment, licenses and the inventory of the 22 stores. Bashas’ will assume the current leases at each property. Bashas’ did not acquire the Southwest Supermarkets company, which is liquidating through bankruptcy.
The acquired stores will be closed tomorrow and Friday for Thanksgiving and an extra day for Bashas’ officials to introduce themselves to the Southwest employees, all of whom were offered jobs with Food City.
The stores will open as Food City at 6 a.m. Saturday, though Food City banners won’t go up until Dec. 9, Bashas’ spokeswoman Mimi Meredith said.
“The employees will be converted to our wage scale. No one will see a lower wage,” she said.
In addition to familiar faces, shoppers will find familiar food offerings.
Most Food City stores have tortillerias and Mexican specialty items in all sections of the store, including the bakery and deli.
“There are chefs all over Phoenix that shop at Food City for white Mexican cheese,” Meredith said.
And, thanks to a decentralized management approach, “Managers have empowerment at the store level to order what is needed to fit the needs of the neighborhood,” she said.
Bashas’ officials in coming days will go through each of the local Southwest stores to determine how much work is needed to convert them into Food City stores. Bashas’ plans to convert two stores a week, with all the work in Tucson and Phoenix expected to finish in March.
“Each store will have different needs,” Meredith said. “Some will have minor needs, and some will need major renovations.”
All the stores are expected to remain open during renovations.
Food City is quite new to Tucson, the first and only local store opening in November 2000 in South Tucson. Bashas’ initially was skeptical that that community could support a full supermarket.
“South Tucson lobbied very heavily for a supermarket,” Meredith said at a press conference in South Tucson. “This store has done extremely well.”
Bashas’ expects all the new Food City stores in Tucson to perform much better than the Southwest stores. Meredith said more employees likely will be added at the local Food City stores.
Southwest has more than 600 employees at the stores bought by Bashas’, but Meredith did not immediately know how many were in Tucson.
The sudden acquisition of 22 stores from the 32-store Southwest chain worked right into Bashas’ growth plan for Food City. Bashas’ was on a path toward adding five to 10 Food City stores a year before learning earlier this month that nearly two dozen Southwest stores were available.
Bashas’ acquired the original Food City in Phoenix in 1993 and has since added 51 stores in metro Phoenix and Tucson. Food City believes its approach will work where Southwest’s failed.
Southwest filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Nov. 5 because the chain “didn’t have enough scale or liquidity to compete in the marketplace,” President and Chief Executive Officer Tony Gioia said in an earlier interview.
Southwest is the second supermarket chain in Tucson to disappear this year. ABCO melted away in the first half of the year, with Safeway acquiring most of those stores.
Bashas’ this week bought six Southwest Supermarkets in Tucson. These stores will become Food City supermarkets targeting the Hispanic community:
- 3030 E. 22nd St.
- 1775 W. Ajo Way
- 1225 W. St. Mary’s Road
- 635 W. Valencia Road
- 1830 E. Irvington Road
- 719 E. Fort Lowell Road.
Food City has one store here at 2950 S. Sixth Ave.