Fred Meyer retools to meet demand

Fred Meyer Customer Service Specialist Natalia Silva and Fred Meyer Manager Vera Emesiochl stand next to a store map showing remodel plans for Fred Meyer in The Dalles. The store is eliminating furniture but adding 18,000 square feet of grocery space.

Shoppers will see major changes at The Dalles Fred Meyer in the next six months as the company reconfigures the store to maximize grocery space to meet demand.

The remodel also creates dozens of new jobs in our area, which is already experiencing a tight labor market, with the unemployment rate for Wasco County hovering around 4 percent, according to the state employment department.

The remodel is just the latest sign of local economic growth due to increased commerce and regional population gains during the past several years.  

“It was always busy on the weekends, but it would slow down during the week. But now it’s busy every day,” said Fred Meyer Store Manager Vera Emesiochl, pointing out that she was unable to get a parking spot at the store on Thursday while doing her own personal shopping.

The store, in volume sales, is on par with Fred Meyers in the more densely populated Portland market, she said.

What’s different, however, is The Dalles store is like those in Alaska, where customers will come in to stockpile groceries, and instead of buying one or two cans, they buy 20.

Currently, employees must stock grocery shelves during the night and the day to meet demand, said Emesiochl. “The population has grown so much we have surpassed the necessary volume on the shelf,” she said, referring to growth of the entire Mid-Columbia region.

Currently, customers stuggle to reach groceries when the isles are congested with stockers and personal shoppers filling takeout orders.

Emesiochl said there will be no additions to the building space, so changes will occur within the current building footprint. That means the company had to make some tough decisions.

They chose to eliminate both the furniture and seasonal sections of the store and reduced the size of home and apparel goods.

But that makes it possible to add some 18,000 square feet to the grocery section on the east side of the building. That means bigger aisles and bigger shelves. Also, produce, deli, bakery, meat and seafood centers will be expanded, as the pharmacy will be doubled in size and moved to the west end of the building where toys are currently located. The floral section will also be expanded and located near the entrance to the grocery section.

Other major changes on the first 0 include an expanded cosmetics, health and beauty section next to electronics, the addition of 12-18 new self-checkout lanes, and a reduction to 10 staffed checkout lanes.  A new elevator will be added east of the current stairway to the mezzanine. Electronics will remain in its current location at the northwest corner of the building.

Several departments are headed upstairs as apparel space is being reduced.  Toys, sporting goods, and auto sections will be moved to the west end of the second floor.

Incoming supplies for the renovation will be staged at the former armory location at Sixth and Webber streets. That said, Emesiochl said they were going to lose about 10 parking spots to construction next to McDonalds during the remodel. No new additional parking is planned for the store, she said.

Maps for the store remodel are located at both entrances to the store for those wanting more details. Emesiochl said the work will occur in stages while the store is in full operation. Customer service employees with bright green shirts are in the store to help customers find items that have changed locations.

“Our goal for the remodel is to make it seamless for the customer,” she said.

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