With large “Store Closing” banners draped across the front of the La Costa Haggen Food and Drug, advertising 10 to 30 percent off, the much storied four-month expansion to bankruptcy of the Washington based-chain may soon be over.
Haggen will hold an auction on November 9 for prospective bidders for their 25 San Diego County locations. But two chains have already stepped up, hoping to carve up 13 of the stores, pending the bankruptcy court’s approval.
Gelson’s Market, a 17-store high-end chain serving wealthier areas of L.A. and Orange County, will be bidding for three Haggen stores, including the one at 7660 El Camino Real. The three locations are all in high-income areas of Carlsbad, Del Mar, and La Jolla.
Smart & Final will be bidding on ten San Diego County Haggen locations, including the small, neighborhood Carlsbad Village store, the only grocery store west of I-5, from Palomar Airport Road north to Oceanside’s Mission Ave. Smart & Final is also bidding on 18 other Haggen locations in California and Nevada.
On October 19, one La Costa Haggen customer said, “If these people think Haggen was high priced, wait until they see Gelson’s.” Barbara from La Costa said they had been on vacation and just returned, surprised to see the store closing. “They [Haggen] had the best meats and steaks,” she said.
As he walked around the store’s empty seafood display, floral department, and fruits and vegetable section, Dennis from Encinitas said even with 10 percent off, he could still find things cheaper at Vons.
Ryan, who works at a hotel nearby, said, “It sucks.” He visits Haggen to get a quick sandwich for lunch. “I can’t afford a ten-dollar sandwich,” he said, referring to Gelson’s purported high prices.
One of the cashier clerks said he would stay with the next store, whoever occupies the place. “It’s an individual decision if we stay or try to go somewhere else.” I asked if the retail clerk’s union is helping Haggen employees The clerk laughed. “You’ve never worked for a union before. All they do is take our money. The union hasn’t helped us out one bit in this whole thing,” he said.
Interestingly, the Haggen drug store will stay open after the La Costa store closes, probably due to stringent licensing by the state pharmaceutical board.
As of yet, there’s been no reported interest from Stater Brothers, the Inland Empire-based, 166-store chain, which industry experts expected to make an expansion move on Haggen’s loss.
On November 24, the bankruptcy court is expected to approve the results of the auction, and Haggen Food and Drugs will officially be out of business in California.