Scolari's to close its Central Coast grocery stores

sdaniel@thetribunenews.com, clambert@thetribunenews.comApril 12, 2012 

Janet Crabaugh pickes up some mocha drinks at Scolari's Market in San Luis Obispo . Scolari’s closed all its Central Coast grocery stores earlier this year.

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

After more than 60 years on the Central Coast, Scolari’s plans to close all four of its California supermarkets — in Paso Robles, Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara — to focus on its 14 Nevada locations.

The closures are expected within 60 days.

A Scolari’s employee said workers at the San Luis Obispo store were told about the closure Thursday after lunch and that their last day would be June 10.

The Tribune’s calls to the Scolari family were not returned. In a news release issued by the company Thursday, Joey Scolari, who co-owns the chain with his brother Jerry, called it “a gut-wrenching decision.”

“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,” he noted.

The closure will affect 150 to 200 employees, according to a union representative with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 770.

The Scolari family has been in business on the Central Coast since the late 1940s. The chain began in California but now has its headquarters in Reno, Nev.

Shoppers were shocked and saddened that the stores would be closing.

“It’s disappointing because I shop here all the time. It’s very convenient,” said Kim Ernst, a Scolari’s shopper for more than 10 years. “That’s really a shame,” she added.

Local developer Nick Tompkins of NKT Commercial has bought the Scolari’s properties in Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. Tompkins said the sale was completed Wednesday but declined to disclose how much he paid for the properties.

He bought them from Joe Scolari, who has not been involved in the operation of Scolari’s Food and Drug Co. for several years.

Joe Scolari does not own the Pismo Beach property, which was leased to his sons.

Tompkins said he is in discussions with retailers and grocers who might be interested in leasing the sites, but he would not comment further.

“As of now, nothing is definitive, and when I can announce it I will provide more details,” he said. “Our family feels really fortunate that we’ve been able to work with Joe to purchase these three great properties.”

In a statement, Scolari said he’s “pleased to sell these properties to NKT Commercial, another family business on the Central Coast.”

NKT Commercial is owned by Nick and Kathy Tompkins and based in San Luis Obispo.

In late 2010 and early 2011, Tompkins was in the news for a proposal to build a grocery store on a vacant parcel at East Grand Avenue and South Courtland Street in Arroyo Grande.

He initially proposed constructing a Food 4 Less grocery store, but those plans stalled after the proposed building’s size was scaled back.

Eventually, in March 2011, Tompkins requested the development standards on his parcel be wiped clean and redone at a future time, and the project was put on hold until an unknown future date.

In announcing the closures, the Scolari brothers said their Central Coast stores presented significant operating and marketing challenges, being separated from one another by more than 120 miles from the southernmost in Santa Barbara to the northernmost in Paso Robles.

“It’s not at all like Northern Nevada, where 10 of our 14 stores are within 15 miles of our headquarters and each other,” said Joey Scolari.

Recent reductions in supervisory staff at its headquarters made it difficult to complete enough visits to maintain operating standards, they added.

Kathy Finn, director of collective bargaining for UFCW 770, said, “We were absolutely blindsided.”

Finn said the union had just finished negotiating a three-year contract with Scolari’s on behalf of the employees.

“We spent a lot of time negotiating. We thought we had a fair agreement,” Finn added.

The union will meet with the company next week to review the effects of the closure.

“We will do the best we can to get something fair for the employees,” Finn said.

Tribune news assistant Julia Hickey contributed to this report.

The Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service