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Costa Mesa Albertsons set to close in February; a Northgate will eventually replace it

Albertsons Costa Mesa
The Albertsons on the corner of Harbor Boulevard and Wilson Street in Costa Mesa is set to close Feb. 22.
(Faith E. Pinho)

The Albertsons on the corner of Harbor Boulevard and Wilson Street, a Costa Mesa neighborhood anchor for two decades, is set to close Feb. 22 — paving the way for a new Northgate González Market.

Melissa Hill, a spokeswoman for the Albertsons grocery chain, said the lease for the store — which opened in Harbor Center on Jan. 26, 2000 — was not renewed.

“Our goal is to offer all of the impacted employees a job and the ability to stay with the company,” she said Thursday.

Northgate will move into the location at the end of the year or early 2021 after a series of remodels, said spokeswoman Teresa Blanco.

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She said Northgate is introducing a new “fresh mercado” concept for its grocery stores — with more open space and fewer rows of shelves. The new store will employ approximately 150 people, she added.

Northgate González Market is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, according to a news release. The market began as an Anaheim liquor store, but the González family has since grown the business into a Latino-themed grocery chain with 41 stores across Southern California, the release stated.

On Wednesday afternoon, the existing Albertsons was a familiar flurry of activity. Customers moseyed up and down aisles as employees stocked shelves and stands with oranges, ice cream cones and assorted toiletries.

One worker took a momentary break from moving a pack of water bottles to greet a passing customer.

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Few shelves were empty, despite the impending closure. Hill said final shipments will arrive and price markdowns will begin in the next couple of weeks.

Many customers expressed surprise and unhappiness at news of the change.

Mayra Orozco, 29, stopped by the deli counter with her daughter, Kaylee Soto, on one of their recent daily trips. Orozco, who lives five minutes away, has been coming to this store since she was a little girl.

“It’s like, ‘OK, I need milk, I need this, I need that’ — come to Albertsons,” Orozco said. “It was like our midnight, last-minute run.”

Some of the store’s oldest employees have seen Orozco grow from a child into a mother with two tykes of her own. She said she attended elementary school with one of the store managers.

“It’s nice,” Orozco said. “That’s what makes it comforting ... I’m going to a store where people notice that I’m there every day.”

“It’s been a long [time] here,” she added, “so we’re really sad.”

Customer Rich Bohn, 69, stopped by Wednesday to pick out ginger for a chicken dish he was preparing. The 40-year Costa Mesa resident said he tries to go to Trader Joe’s because it’s cheaper, but oftentimes Albertsons is more convenient.

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In his mind, this store’s closure is a part of a larger pattern.

“There’s been a lot of different stores that are just moving,” Bohn said, citing the former nearby Office Depot that has since closed. “I’d say it’s part of a trend. So now, I have to go across town, farther away.”

Ace Tre, a 23-year-old student at Cal State Long Beach, said he began coming to the Albertsons a few months ago, when he moved to Costa Mesa. He said the store’s meat section touts fair prices, and though he doesn’t consider the produce selection to be as good as it is at Sprouts Farmers Market — where he worked for more than three years — he still stopped by to pick up a container of chopped mushrooms, peppers and onions.

When he doesn’t come to Albertsons, Tre goes to the nearby Stater Bros. Markets — the closest chain grocery store — but said he thinks the selection there is never as good.

“I started coming here because there are way more options,” Tre said.

Customer Stacey Flatten agreed: “I like it a lot — it has everything,” she said.

Jake Pardo, 32, was picking through bananas when he found out the news.

“That sucks,” he said. “I live just down the street.”

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Along with the store’s selection, Pardo said he appreciates the self-service checkout line, where he doesn’t have to interact with anyone.

“I guess I’m going to have to go down to the Stater Bros.,” he said. “It’s smaller, and I actually have to talk to people again.”

Albertsons Cos. is one of the largest grocery retail chains in the country, operating stores in 35 states and the District of Columbia under a number of different names — including Albertsons, Safeway, Vons and Pavilions, according to its website.

Though this Albertsons is going away, the company will still have a presence in this corner of Costa Mesa. There’s a Vons just over a mile up Harbor Boulevard, on the corner of Adams Avenue.

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