I’m picking up a $2 bottle of Big Kahuna on the way home.
It’ll be hard to face employees at the Palm Desert Fresh & Easy as I select a Merlot or Tempranillo of the chain’s hallmark cheap wine, but one told me by phone that “Everybody’s taking it well. They’re doing fine.”
I’m glad THEY are.
Several hours ago on Tuesday, the money-bleeding chain of convenience/grocery stores told me via Facebook update it had been sold to billionaire Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Companies, LLC. Tesco, the British version of Walmart that launched the brand six years ago, put the stores on the market in April.
It’s not a huge surprise to me, as I’ve been following the process as closely as I can through the anonymous industry insider who tweets as @FreshNEasyBuzz, a hater of all things Tesco.
About 50 of the 200 stores across California, Arizona and Nevada weren’t included in the deal and would be shut down. Seemed like pretty good odds to me, but the Coachella Valley is losing more than half its stores, with the ones in central Palm Desert, north Indio and downtown La Quinta on the hit list.
The west valley stores in Palm Springs and Cathedral City have been spared. The inventory at the other three stores will be marked down 25 percent starting Wednesday morning, and they’ll close once they’ve been emptied, Fresh & Easy spokesman Brendan Wonacott said. No closure list had been released at the time, but individual stores could confirm their demise.
I’m mourning the doomed La Quinta store, tucked into downtown on Calle Tampico. They had the BEST clearance cooler. Still, the Palm Desert store is the one I described to my mother once as my “home away from home.”
As you can tell, I’m kind of attached to the place. The ready-to-heat meals have enabled me to further delay learning how to cook something besides pasta for myself, and I can’t remember the last time I paid full price for one.
They may well have lost more money than they ever made on me, between the meals I bought on clearance on their expiration date, the “made for me” coupons they emailed for stuff I actually bought on a regular basis and rewards points that added up to real dollars.
Today’s lunch was a relatively pricey chicken Marsala with potatoes I haven’t tried before, for $3.74 instead of $4.99. Yesterday, it was their Eatwell (healthy house brand) turkey chili, bought for $1.80 instead of $3.99. Sometimes, I can find decent-sized salads for 60 cents, or other meals for less than a dollar.
I never know when I’ll hit the jackpot. It’s my own personal casino.
I felt like I was shopping at a nonprofit whose cause I believed in fervently, ridiculous as it was.
I’ll even admit to making a pilgrimage several Saturdays ago to their gargantuan distribution center just outside Riverside, but I chickened out on trying to talk the guard into letting a fangirl through the gates.
It hasn’t been all cheap wine and roses with them. I’ve also referred to the place as “Fresh & Evil” for making so much food available to me so cheaply, not to mention the Big Kahuna. So maybe it’s for the best that I’ll have to drive all the way to Cathedral City.
Still, Ron, I wish you could have been a little gentler.