Downtown grocery store closing this summer
Alaskan & Proud market is shutting down.
Operators of the downtown Juneau store on West Willoughby Avenue were unable to reach a new lease agreement with owners of the Foodland Shopping Center.
The store – sometimes still called Foodland — will close in late August or early September.
Ben Williams, President and CEO of Williams Incorporated, says he talked with every employee individually on Tuesday to let them know about the closure.
“It was a personal thing,” said Williams. “It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life.”
A few employees may work past the closure to help with the decommissioning of the store.
Williams says he’s offered a severance package for the store’s 75 employees. Some may take jobs elsewhere in the Ketchikan-based organization that includes two stores in Ketchikan and one in Thorne Bay.
He says other Juneau employers – his soon-to-be former competitors — have expressed interest in interviewing his employees after the store closes.
One employee says she’s been working there since at least 1978. James Wilson, 25, says he just started as a courtesy bagger two weeks ago.
“I had no idea this was going to happen,” said Wilson. “I’ll just stick it out with them to the end and then see what’s going to happen afterwards.”
Williams says a few employees may work past the last day of business to help clean and dismantle the store, and prepare it properly for the next potential tenant
Williams declined to provide details about the lease negotiations, but he says it broke down over the proposed amortization of the cost of proposed store improvements.
“It was a very hard business decision,” said Williams.
Williams, Inc. operates two stores in Ketchikan and one in Thorne Bay with 195 employees total.
The Foodland Shopping Center is owned by the Rosenberger family of Juneau, who are represented by John Williams of Juneau Real Estate – no relation to the Ben Williams of Williams, Incorporated.
John Williams declined a recorded interview, but he told KTOO that the owners are seeking a new grocery store to move into the A & P space. He says A & P notified him of the decision not to renew the lease on April 18th, and he’s already had preliminary talks with grocery chains in the Pacific Northwest. Williams says having five months to find a new tenant should help.
The Foodland Center sits on 5.5 acres in the city’s Willoughby District, and has been for sale for more than two years. Williams says the current asking price is $13,500,000, down from the initial listing of $15,900,000.
Besides the grocery store, the shopping center includes the JRC/Alaska Club fitness center, Good Hardware True Value, Foodland Super Drug, and medical and office space. Williams says he thinks all of the other tenants are staying put.
The retail grocery store side of the building was built in 1963, with additions in 1968 and 1972. The health club and hardware store side of the building was built in the early to mid-1990s.
Ben Williams says he’s just the latest in a line of merchants and grocery men dating back to his grandparents.
“I’ve been in this business my whole life,” said Williams. “Fifty-five years now.”
After selling stores that he owned with his father in New Mexico and Colorado, Williams says he worked for a Montana chain. He was then recruited to work in Ketchikan forty years ago by Sitka grocer Lloyd Hames, and later went to work for Carr-Gottstein in Anchorage. Williams says he started Williams Inc. almost 25 years ago. The company grew to as many as six stores when they purchased Juneau’s Foodland about sixteen years ago.