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Store owners Sopheap Yin, right, and Sokna Yin talk about their new Grocery Outlet location as it prepares to open in Richmond, Calif. on Tuesday, May 21, 2013. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)
CORRECTION (Published 5/23/2013)

A story about the new Grocery Outlet store in Richmond incorrectly reported its location. It is at 12010 San Pablo Ave., not boulevard.

RICHMOND -- A city long hungry for more full-service grocers is set to welcome a big one this week.

Berkeley-based Grocery Outlet will open a new store in Richmond on Thursday. The new 14,000-square-foot store sits in a long-vacant building at 12010 San Pablo Ave., a busy thoroughfare that intersects Macdonald Avenue.

The store is owned and operated by Sopheap and Sokna Yin, Cambodian immigrants who rose through the ranks to become longtime owners of another Grocery Outlet store in San Pablo.

"The Yins are shining examples of the hard work, dedication and family values that Grocery Outlet's owner/operator program stands for," Melissa Porter, vice president of marketing for Grocery Outlet, said in a news release. "We know they will bring to our new Richmond store the same success, neighborhood feel and community involvement that they showed for the past 13 years at the San Pablo store."

The new store is a step toward filling what has been a glaring dearth of full-service grocers in Richmond, a city of more than 103,000 residents. While grocers have sprouted up in nearby, smaller cities such as El Cerrito and San Pablo, Richmond has for years had only one full-service grocery, a Food Maxx in the heart of the old downtown, since Albertson's Inc. in 2004 closed the last of three stores it once had in the city.


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On Tuesday, the store's untouched parking lot still smelled of freshly laid asphalt. Inside, dozens of workers paced the gleaming aisles, stocking the last open spaces and sprucing up the kiosks. The Yins sold their interest in their San Pablo store to take on this new opportunity.

"We've never had a facility this nice and in a location that is perfect," said Sopheap Yin, taking a break from working alongside his wife and the other workers. "This will be our last store. We expect sales much higher than our San Pablo store."

The new store brings to 26 the number of Grocery Outlets in the Bay Area, 15 of which are in the East Bay.

Councilman Tom Butt said he has joined Richmond's growing urban farming movement, but the dearth of grocery stores has remained a problem for years.

"I get almost as many complaints about the lack of grocery stores as I get about potholes," he said.

The shortage of grocery stores in Richmond spurred the U.S. Department of Agriculture to categorize parts of the city as "food deserts" in recent years, defined as low-income communities more than one mile from a full-service grocer.

Grocery Outlet has been eyeing an opportunity to tap the underserved market in Richmond for months. Last year, Porter said Richmond was in the midst of a "renaissance" and that Grocery Outlet was a good fit for the city.

Without grocers, many residents in poorer areas of the city rely on corner markets and liquor stores for their food needs. A study by Contra Costa County last year revealed that more than 50 percent of local children are overweight.

The city's general plan, passed last year, was the first in the region to include a public health element, calling for more grocery stores, and more open space and pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly amenities. An urban agriculture movement also has taken root, with small farms sprouting up on previously vacant parcels in the Iron Triangle and North Richmond.

The new Grocery Outlet will carry USDA-certified meats, fresh produce, a larger-than-average NOSH (Natural, Organic, Specialty & Health) section and other standard fare, according to the news release.

The store will offer about 30 full- and part-time jobs.

The store will host a ribbon cutting with local officials Wednesday and opens for business Thursday.

A public grand opening celebration will be held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 1; it will include prize giveaways, including free groceries, an Xbox 360 and a 42-inch 3-D television. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Richmond Police Activities League.

Grocery Outlet has more than 185 locations in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726. Follow him at Twitter.com/roberthrogers.