Biz Buzz: Rite Aid on track for July opening in Atascadero

The Rite Aid in Atascadero will have around 17,000 square feet. photo jayson mellom 3-26-10
The Rite Aid in Atascadero will have around 17,000 square feet. photo jayson mellom 3-26-10

The new Rite Aid shaping up on El Camino Real and Mercedes Avenue in Atascadero is set to open in July. Construction began in November.

The new store will have an ice cream booth and a drive-through pharmacy in about 17,000 square feet, said Mike Hieshima of the Carpinteria-based developer Epsteen & Associates.

“The entire staff is moving over,” local store manager Jim Barksdale said, noting that the roughly 20 to 25 staffers are excited about the change.

He doesn’t know whether there will be new hires after the opening.

The new store will feature an updated look with stone veneer siding, red-tile roof and new landscaping, Hieshima said. There will also be 62 new parking places.

The existing Rite Aid, located behind the new building in the Plaza Del Camino shopping center, is more than 20 years old, he said. It will feature 21,000 square feet of vacant space for a new tenant when Rite Aid moves out.

The spot has long been known in the community to house a drug store, Barksdale said. It was a Thrifty PayLess before Rite Aid Corp. acquired it in the late 1990s. The property and other nearby buildings sit on what was Atascadero Colony founder E.G. Lewis’ estate and included the Lewis Headquarters House and a number of other community buildings, such as Atascadero’s first post office. Williams Bros. Supermarket purchased the Lewis property in 1964 and burned down Lewis’ estate house as part of clearing the site for a new market.

The Vons, part of Safeway Inc., was built on the site about 15 years later.

The developers had to file for a new address — now 7025 El Camino Real — for the new Rite Aid because the space was a parking lot before, Hieshima said.

— Tonya Strickland

United adds sixth flight from SLO

Starting April 6, United Airlines will offer a sixth daily flight from San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles.

The addition of the flight, operated by United’s regional partner, SkyWest Airlines, means that United “recognizes the strength of the market,” said Richard Howell, general manager for the San Luis Obispo County Regional and Oceano airports.

The region lost about 37 percent of its departing airline seats when American Airlines and Delta Airlines left the market and US Airways cut back services to its hub in Las Vegas. The cuts were the result of a weak economy and high oil prices in 2008, according to county officials.

In January, United added a fifth daily flight to Los Angeles from the San Luis Obispo airport. The airline also offers five flights to San Francisco daily.

The flight is scheduled to arrive in San Luis Obispo at 1:59 p.m. from Los Angeles International Airport, and to depart San Luis Obispo at 2:23 p.m. for Los Angeles.

Passengers will fly on a 30-seat Embraer 120 turboprop, similar to those currently used to fly to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

— Cynthia Lambert

AG hospital’s cancer program honored

The Arroyo Grande Community Hospital’s cancer program has earned full accreditation and an Outstanding Achievement Award from the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer.

Hospital officials have invited the public as well as staff and physicians to a celebration at 5 p.m. today.

The accreditation places the Coastal Cancer Care and Diagnostic Center among only 1,480 cancer programs nationwide to have the honor, and is the only one in San Luis Obispo County to do so, according to a news release from hospital spokeswoman Anna Scott.

In addition, the hospital’s cancer program is one of only four recipients in California and 80 in the country to earn the 2009 Outstanding Achievement Award.

“Earning this highest honor from the American College of Surgeons for our cancer center is truly phenomenal,” hospital President Rick Castro said in the release. “I am so proud of everyone who helped us earn this achievement.”

The free event will take place under a tent in front of the AGCH Coastal Cancer Care Center at 921 Oak Park Blvd. in the Pismo Medical Campus. It will be held rain or shine.

RSVPs are recommended and can be made by contacting Montisa Phelan, AGCH Foundation executive director, at 994-5421 or at

— Cynthia Lambert

Caltrans District 5 has named Mike Lew its construction engineer of the year. Lew, of San Luis Obispo, earned a civil engineering degree from Cal Poly in 2001. He works in the Caltrans construction field office in Santa Maria and has spent the past year supervising projects in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, including the truck climbing lane on southbound Highway 101 at Avila Beach Drive, and the merge lane project on Highway 101 from Mattie Road in Pismo Beach to Grand Avenue in Arroyo Grande.

— Julia Hickey

Columnist Lon Allan contributed to this report.