Business & Real Estate

New grocery seen as catalyst for Del Paso development

Viva Supermarket celebrates grand opening in Del Paso Heights

Local community members are excited about the opening of the first full service grocery store to open in Del Paso Heights in 30 years on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016
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Local community members are excited about the opening of the first full service grocery store to open in Del Paso Heights in 30 years on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016

An oasis is taking shape in the “food desert” known as Del Paso Heights.

Work began this week to convert the long-shuttered Market Basket grocery store, near the corner of Marysville Boulevard and Grand Avenue, into a modern Viva Supermarket. New refrigeration units are being installed. Shelving is going up. The floors and roof are being replaced.

The expected opening date for the new store: Early August, according to Sean Loloee, owner of the Viva chain.

He’s promising not only a long-awaited full-service market for a community that’s long done without one – but also a sort of catalytic presence that could help spur development throughout the gritty, low-income neighborhood.

“Opening a supermarket in an area like this is literally a gateway for other businesses to follow,” Loloee said this week as he gave a tour of another nearby Viva store. In his experience, banks, pharmacies, coffee shops and various retailers quickly follow after grocery stores take the first steps to open in neglected neighborhoods.

That’s exactly the hope of Sacramento City Councilman Allen Warren, who grew up in the area and helped recruit Viva. “You think of some of the things that people take for granted – like grocery stores and banks – and they don’t exist here,” he said.

Not yet, at least.

Loloee, who was born in Iran, opened his first grocery stores in Southern California in the 1990s. In 2000, he took over an abandoned market in West Oakland – an area, like “the Heights,” that was devoid of fresh and affordable food options.

He started the Viva chain in 2009, opening a 35,000-square-foot store on Norwood Avenue in North Sacramento. A store in Dixon followed in 2013. Besides the Del Paso location, two other sites in the Sacramento area are being considered for Viva locations, he said.

The stores are bright and inviting, with spacious departments for fresh produce and meats and seafood. They have bakeries and delis that turn out take-home meals with a focus on Mexican cuisine.

The Del Paso store will be smaller than the Norwood location, at just under 19,000 square feet, but Loloee said the goal will be to offer the same services and choices. He is hiring 30 to 40 employees, most of them from the neighborhood.

Among those excited about the new store is Mary Watts, a longtime Del Paso Heights resident who has been driving 15 minutes or so to shop at Viva’s Norwood store.

She’s right across the street from the new place and loves the idea of seeing familiar faces – those of fellow shoppers and employees – in the store. Many of her neighbors don’t have cars and are forced to get their food at mini-markets or the Dollar General store on Marysville, Watts said.

“It’s going to be a luxury for them,” she said. “They’re going to love it.”

Going once, going twice...

A month after the auction sale of the Senator Hotel office building in downtown Sacramento, another historic property – this one in midtown – is about to be sold in the same way.

The three-story Eastern Star building at 2719 K St., across from Sutter’s Fort, will be offered to the highest bidder next month in an online sale. The opening bid: $750,000.

It’s an unconventional sales method for a property built in 1928 by a Masonic group. Sacramentan Thomas Roth bought it in 2013 and has tried – with little luck – to find someone interested in leasing the entire Romanesque Revival-style building, which features a grand stairway going from the lobby to second-floor meeting rooms and a third-floor auditorium and stage where dances have been held in recent years.

Brian Jacks, a Sacramento broker who is marketing the property, said possible uses for the 31,500-square-foot building include multifamily housing, a fitness center or a museum.