Fresh & Easy market breaks ground in SLO

Developers of the proposed Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market along Broad Street in San Luis Obispo broke ground Wednesday on what is set to be the 10,000-square-foot anchor tenant for a housing and commercial development near downtown.

Fresh & Easy bought the 1.12-acre property for $2.1 million. It is to be part of the 6-acre Village at Broad Street development of below-market-price housing and commercial space between Santa Barbara and Alphonso streets near Fire Station 1.

Based in El Segundo, near Los Angeles, the Fresh & Easy grocery store chain is owned by the United Kingdom’s largest retailer, Tesco.

The U.S. chain touts fresh and high-quality prepared foods along with standard grocery products. It also bills itself as environmentally friendly and claims to use 30 percent less energy than a typical grocery store.

The store is estimated to open in January or February, co-developer Jim Halferty said. Halferty of Pasadena and business partner Dick DeBeikes of Irvine are developing two of the three parcels at The Village at Broad Street.

Sharing the Fresh & Easy parcel will be two other retail locations totaling 8,000 square feet, and Halferty is in talks with prospective tenants.

The second parcel owned by Halferty Development Company at the Village is now being marketed to apartment and condo developers.

A third, 3-acre parcel at the back of the property was sold to the ROEM Corp. of Santa Clara in 2009 to build below-market-price housing.

That project, called the Village at Broad Street Family Apartments, is to include 42 units, with 7,200 square feet of retail.

Construction is well under way to be completed in November, and there are negotiations with possible commercial tenants, said Jeff Schnurr, director of construction for ROEM.

Fresh & Easy opened in the U.S. in 2007 and has more than 170 stores in California, Arizona and Nevada. The nearest to San Luis Obispo is in Orcutt.

Tesco, which operates in 14 countries with more than 5,300 stores worldwide, reported profits of more than $4 billion in the fiscal year ending Feb. 26.

In the same year, the Fresh & Easy chain — Tesco’s difficult foray into the U.S. market — reported more than $300 million in losses.

However, for the quarter ending May 28, 2011, Tesco has reported that Fresh & Easy sales were up 21.9 percent.

Tesco plans for Fresh & Easy to break even with about 300 stores by the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year, according to its annual report.