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Old-time grocery getting a boost

Robert Chacon

Handy Market has been a Magnolia Avenue staple for 33 years. Although

independent markets like his continue to disappear, owner Alan

Arzoian said his store is experiencing a shot in the arm because of

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the ongoing supermarket strike.

The work stoppage has given his store a chance to win over

large-chain shoppers, Arzoian said.

“The first week of the strike was really wild,” he said this week.

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“We saw an increase of 50% to 60% in daily volume. We could not

handle all the extra shoppers.”

Built in the 1940s, the store has cramped aisles and a back

storage area where employees need to maneuver stacks of boxes filled

with produce into tight spots.

“Our back room wasn’t designed to handle this kind of volume,”

Arzoian said.

Sales at the store are running 20% more than usual during the

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holiday season because of the strike, he said.

Ronald Gonzales had not been inside Handy for 10 years, but on Friday, he spent almost $100 on a cart full of groceries.

“I don’t want to cross a picket line,” Gonzales said.

Besides attracting extra customers to Handy Market, the strike

also has drawn hundreds of supermarket employees seeking part-time

jobs to augment their strike wages. Arzoian gave a “conservative

estimate” that more than 100 striking workers from Vons, Albertsons

and Ralphs have asked him for a job. He has hired six.

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Vons employee Sandy Chambers said she landed a job at Handy two

weeks after the strike began to augment the $40 a day she receives

from a strike fund.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, which represents the

grocery clerks, started a work stoppage Oct. 11, with 21,000 workers

striking mainly against Vons. In response, Ralphs and Albertsons

locked out 49,000 of their workers.

Rising health-care costs are at the heart of the dispute, with the

union opposing efforts by the three chains to have their workers pay

more for the rising costs of health care.

Federally mediated talks resumed Friday and are expected to

continue today.

“I have to make a living. This strike is going on too long. I have

rent, car payments and other bills,” Chambers said.


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