Creating a void in the Lower Eastside retail community, the Scolari’s market in Santa Barbara is closing, along with three other Central Coast stores operated by the independent supermarket chain, the company announced Thursday.
“This was a gut-wrenching decision,” Joey Scolari, co-owner with his brother, Jerry, said in a news release. “The economic downturn hit us hard as far back as 2009, but we put off taking this action as long as we could because of the negative impact on people’s lives.”
Parent company Scolari’s Food & Drug Co., based in Sparks, Nev., said it also plans to close stores in Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles, but will continue to operate 14 stores in Nevada.
The company said the four California stores presented an operational challenge, as did the 400-mile distance from the company’s headquarters.
“Our family has been in business here since the late 1940s, but there comes a time as a business owner that you have to face the reality of your situation,” Jerry Scolari said.
No specific closure date was given for the Santa Barbara store, at 222 N. Milpas St., but the company indicated it would occur within 60 days, and would be preceded by an inventory-reduction sale.
The manager of the Santa Barbara store referred questions about the sale to the corporate office, where spokesman John Stampfli said many details remain to be worked out. He said he didn’t know how many employees would be affected locally by the closure.
Meanwhile, the store properties in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles have been sold to NKT Commercial in San Luis Obispo, according to a news release from the development company. The Pismo Beach store was not owned by the Scolaris.
Nick Tompkins of NKT said in the release that his company already is in discussions with several retailers and grocers that may be interested in leasing the properties.
John Dixon, owner of the nearby Tri-County Produce, 335 S. Milpas St., said he was surprised by the closure news, adding that he thought the Milpas store was performing well.
“That’s a complete shocker,” he said. “Look at how many employees they have who will be out looking for work. Look at Best Buy. It just announced it was closing 50 stores. If the numbers aren’t there, you have to make cuts and look at what stores aren’t producing.”
Dixon said he expects another grocery store to move in, but the Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, set to open May 1 at 336 N. Milpas St., may benefit most in the short term.
According to the company’s website, the Scolari family started in the grocery business in California in 1947, when Joie Scolari and his father opened the first Scolari’s grocery store. That business grew to a total of 12 stores, and in 1979 was sold to Lucky Stores Inc.
In 1982, the Scolaris purchased an ownership interest and management control of a chain of stores based in Reno known as Warehouse Markets Inc. The corporate name was later changed to Scolari’s Warehouse Markets Inc., and in 1991 the trade name of Scolari’s Food & Drug Co. was adopted to more accurately reflect the nature of the stores. In 1992, the Scolaris purchased the remaining interest in the Nevada stores.
In addition to the Central Coast stores, Scolari’s has 10 supermarkets in the Reno/Sparks metropolitan area, and one each in Carson City, Fernley, Gardnerville, Fernley, Tonopah and Yerington, Nev.