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Major renovation in works for West 11th Fred Meyer.

Byline: Retail Notebook by The Register-Guard

AISLE BE GONE: A few weeks from now, a choreographed-type event will begin at the west Eugene Fred Meyer. But it won't feature dancers leaping among clothing and grocery aisles. Instead, construction workers will star in this production.

The big store on West 11th Avenue is about to undergo a dramatic $9 million interior renovation, including moving and expansion of several departments and the installation of new floors, shelves and lighting.

The work began last fall with concrete for a larger outdoor garden center, and behind-the-scenes electric and ventilation work. Shoppers haven't been aware of the activity, but that will change on Feb. 11 when contractors invade the store for about three months of around-the-clock work.

To minimize disruption, the renovation has been orchestrated to take place in 75 different phases so customers can find milk, socks, nails and other items with little trouble.

"We want to inconvenience the customer as little as possible," store manager Bob Winner said.

The project will give the 19-year-old store - last remodeled more than a decade ago - a fresh, updated look and an improved interior layout, Fred Meyer spokesman Rob Boley said.

For example, the pharmacy will be moved from the middle of the sales floor to the front of the grocery department. "You don't want sick, ill people having to walk through the store to get their medications," Winner said. Nearly all of the 50 departments will be changed in some way, he said.

Also, Fred Meyer will install Optimal Robotics Inc. self-serve scanners that customers can use in express lines to check out their own groceries. That may turn the store into the first Eugene-Springfield retailer with such machines.

Simultaneous with the inside work, Fred Meyer will build a gas station in the parking lot.

It might look like the renovation is a response to the soon-to-be opened Target and Wal-Mart stores less than a mile away on West 11th Avenue. But Fred Meyer, the Portland-based division of Kroger Co., has been working on the project for a few years, Winner said.

FOUR SEASONS: Bob and Diana Hintz, owners of Robert's Nursery & Landscape in Junction City, figured that busy West Seventh Avenue and Polk Street was a good spot to open a Eugene outlet in November 2000.

But the nursery, in the former Wendell's Garden Center, failed to attract enough customers, so the couple cut their losses and closed the business on Jan. 1.

Bob Hintz said a weak economy, a drought last summer that made people reluctant to garden, and a store without a lot of room for inventory, contributed to the financial problems.

But the experience was not a total loss, he said. Christmas trees and yard fountains and ponds were good sellers, so Robert's will offer them in Junction City.

By business reporter Ed Russo. Retail Notebook runs Thursdays. To include items, call 485-1234, Ext. 2359, or e-mail
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 17, 2002
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