Fresh & Easy on Tuesday put the finishing touches on new stores in Danville and central San Jose as it prepared for a grand opening Wednesday for the two markets, its first in the Bay Area.
The stores are the first of 13 that the retailer, a unit of England-based supermarket behemoth Tesco, is planning to open in the region during the coming months.
"We're very excited to have Fresh & Easy open up in town," said Joe Calabrigo, Danville's town manager. "We have been waiting for them for almost two years now."
The Fresh & Easy store in Danville is located at 460 Diablo Blvd., just east of Interstate 680. The store in central San Jose that will open this week is at 1409 Bird Ave., near Minnesota Avenue in the city's Willow Glen district.
"As a community, we are probably underserved by grocery stores and markets," Calabrigo said. "We really like their approach, organic foods, healthier foods, kind of a green approach."
Both the San Jose and Danville stores are laid out to feature produce and meat in the first couple of rows; milk and other dairy products down one side; and nuts, dried fruit cookies and crackers along the other wall.
In the center aisles, the stores will feature just about every kind of item that shoppers would find at a major supermarket.
"We have everything you need to run your household," said Brendan Wonnacott, a Fresh & Easy spokesman.
A typical Fresh & Easy store has about 4,500 items or, as they are technically known, SKUs. About 60 percent of those are Fresh & Easy private labels.
Meat, cheese, juices, produce, milk, salsa, cereal, wine and ice cream are examples of some of the items that Fresh & Easy sells under its own label.
Alexandra Chavez, a San Jose resident who works at the Willow Glen store, said she likes her new job so far. She also is looking forward to being a customer.
"I'd like to shop here," she said. "They have a good variety of stuff here."
Each store will have 20 to 25 employees, Fresh & Easy officials said.
"It's going to be interesting to see how they do," said Henry Englehardt, a broker with the Walnut Creek office of Colliers International, a commercial realty firm. "Fresh & Easy has identified Northern California as a market that they really want to get going."
After these first two stores are open, Fresh & Easy intends to open several other Bay Area stores in March. Those new stores are in Pacifica, Concord, Vacaville, Modesto and Walnut Creek.
In April, Fresh & Easy will open stores in Pleasanton, Hayward, Napa and western San Jose.
The grocery chain also plans to open at least two stores in San Francisco in the coming months.
"Fresh & Easy, Sprouts, Foods Co., they may all find things tougher than they might have imagined," Englehardt said. "Safeway has taken some moves to counter the competition, and they will take more measures to counter the competition."
Among the Safeway responses: The supermarket giant has decided to open six new or revamped stores in the Bay Area in 2011. One of those is a brand-new store in Pleasanton near Interstate 680 and Bernal Road.
Still, Englehardt said he thinks that Fresh & Easy has made wise choices in the stores it has decided to open this week, along with the other sites.
"They will get some good customer samples in Danville and Willow Glen," he said. "In both of those areas, there is discretionary income and they are mature markets."
The new market entrants are expected to challenge incumbent chains such as Safeway and Lucky.
"Consumers will be the winners and they will get more choices," Englehardt said. "They will create competitive pressure, especially on Lucky."
Fresh & Easy says it plans to carefully study what the customers require.
"It's part of our DNA as a company," Wonnacott said. "We listen to our customers and evolve based on their needs."
Contact George Avalos at 925-977-8477.