Haggen breathes its last breath in Prescott

Max Efrein/The Daily Courier<br>Customers browse the last few remaining items sectioned off near the entrance of the store. Everything was going for 80 to 90 percent off.

Max Efrein/The Daily Courier<br>Customers browse the last few remaining items sectioned off near the entrance of the store. Everything was going for 80 to 90 percent off.

Following a month of gradually increasing clearance sales, the Haggen in Prescott had its final day Thursday, ending Haggen's presence in the quad-cities area.

The store was already so cleared out Thursday morning that many curious customers took more time parking and walking into the store than they actually did browsing the four or five shelves of random items.

Within about three minutes of entering, Shigeru Mihara was able to glance at the goods and decide they weren't for him.

"There is nothing really in there," Mihara said. "It's pretty sad."

Retired Albertsons employee Anthony Gutierrez popped in briefly as well just to console his friends he used to work with.

"After being here for 20-some years and having to say goodbye, it's hard for somebody," Gutierrez said. "We're like a family, we're very tight."

Gutierrez retired two years ago after 23 years of working for Albertsons. Although he didn't go through the Haggen demise himself, he knows what it's like to be let go after investing a significant amount of time with a company.

"I've been through all of this once before about 20 years ago with another company," Gutierrez said. "I had worked for them for 20 years and they went bankrupt and closed up, so I came to Albertsons and started all over again."

The few remaining Haggen employees didn't wish to be quoted, but Gutierrez said all of them have found jobs from what he's heard.

What bothers Gutierrez the most about the situation is that he believes Haggen didn't want any of the Albertsons stores in Arizona in the first place.

"They were looking to get rid of them as soon as they could; no consideration for the employees or anything," Gutierrez said. "We built up Albertsons here and could have done the same with Haggen, but Haggen didn't want anything to do with Arizona."

Albertsons refused to comment. The grocery chain did, however, put out a news release recently confirming it acquired 30 former Haggen stores in California, Washington, Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Only three were claimed in Arizona - two in Tucson and one in Lake Havasu City.

"We are pleased to be returning to these locations and have the opportunity to create great jobs in these communities," said Bob Miller, Albertsons Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

"The process of re-opening these stores as Albertsons, Safeway and Vons locations will take some time for us to obtain the appropriate licenses, but we are confident that our operating playbook will help us create stores that customers will love to shop again."

Although the now vacant property in the Depot Market Place in Prescott is owned by a company based in New York, the company contracts with Arizona Commercial, a local property management group, to serve as its consultant for the location.

Arizona Commercial President Dan Frederiksen said they expect to have possession of the property back by the end of December and didn't expect it to take very long before finding a business to fill the space.

"That location has been a success there for such a long time before Haggen came in," Frederiksen said. "We're confident that it will do well again once we get somebody in there."

Frederiksen said at this point the owner has formed a wish list of target tenants and many of the names that have circulated around town are on it.

"We're going to be a little selective about who we bring in," Frederiksen said. "We won't necessarily take the first business that shows interest."

Follow Max Efrein on Twitter @mefrein. Reach him at 928-445-3333 ext. 1105, or 928-642-7864.