A Mesa supermarket, which is scheduled to reopen today after a remodeling that makes liquor more visible, has riled some neighbors, including a local legislator.
State Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, said he doesn’t like the changes to the Fry’s store at 1935 N. Stapley Drive, and he may take his grocery list to Wal-Mart or Bashas'. That’s because of a storewide makeover that expanded the meat department, shoving the liquor aisles closer to the center of the store.
Fry’s spokesman Jim Nygren said the company is “spending millions of dollars,” to remodel all the older marketplace stores in the updated image piloted a year ago at a new Fry’s at Riggs and McQueen roads in Chandler. Fry’s has not had any major complaints about the new store design until now, Nygren said.
“Our customers really like it,” he said. “It provides a better traffic flow. We’ve never had a reaction like this.”
Pearce said he’s backing neighborhood activist Wendy Evans, who is organizing a protest because the changes make the alcohol aisles visible from one of the two store entrances.
“I respect my neighbors’ right to protest that,” Pearce said. “As a respecter of private-property rights, I support Fry’s right to do whatever they want. We just need to let Fry’s know we will shop somewhere else.”
Pearce said he is “not involved as a legislator, but as Russell Pearce, a neighbor.”
Evans said she has been rallying neighbors in hopes of getting Fry’s to stash the booze near the back of the store, “out of the public eye. ”
“We have a lot of concerned neighbors. Alcohol is one of the most destructive drugs in society,” Evans said. “Children go into Fry’s. This is a family neighborhood.”
Evans said some organizations, which did not want their names revealed, are
helping her rally people to her cause. She is not sure how many individuals support her, but she hopes to get an idea today if they show up to picket the store.
A Mesa store at Greenfield Road and Main Street was remodeled in the new image a couple of weeks ago, Nygren said. Stores at Gilbert and Baseline roads on the Mesa-Gilbert border and at 40th Street and Chandler Boulevard in Ahwatukee Foothills are among other Valley stores getting a makeover.
The changes include expanded meat, floral and nutrition departments as well as a more open layout and new signs.
The liquor section in the Stapley store previously faced the meat department, so it had to relocate to make room for more meat coolers, Nygren said. “We didn’t think it was that much of an issue,” he said.
Coolers have to align with the under-the-floor refrigeration lines, said store manager Dave Leschnik, so it’s not so easy or cheap to relocate the meat department.
Fry’s does not plan to change the layout because of Evans protest, Nygren said.
He said neighbors who don’t want to walk down liquor aisles can avoid them completely, which they couldn’t when it was facing the meat coolers.
Evans said that’s not good enough. “We’ll just make other choices,” she said.