Traffic in Tacoma’s downtown corridor is picking up, but not quickly enough for the Tacoma City Grocer, which has plans to close and reopen in Browns Point in March.
The IGA-branded store at 1250 Pacific Ave. announced its closure to the public with signs hung on Jan. 23, but word is spreading slowly.
Three employees at a local CPA firm, who asked to remain anonymous, stopped by for lunch on Wednesday, only to find the deli had already closed.
The deli was the moneymaker for the store that opened in September 2011. The actual groceries, ranging from meat and produce to canned and frozen goods, still sit stocked on the shelves, though, they’ve been reduced 25 percent to help clear the store.
“There’s not enough customer traffic downtown here to support a full-service grocer,” store manager Charlie McKissick said. “You can’t support a full grocery store on sandwiches and soup.”
Sales were stronger when the grocer opened because union picketers brought attention to the storefront — a location somewhat hidden on the ground-level floor of the Pacific Plaza building, McKissick said.
“We were climbing and growing up to a point, even after they left, and then it flattened out,” he said.
McKissick’s store, operated by Tyler Myers, will close in the next few weeks, but another IGA-branded store, which might be named Lighthouse IGA, will open in Browns Point in March. Myers will also run that store and most employees that want a job there will have one, said McKissick.
So far, his staff of 18 has dwindled to 15.
“We put a beautiful store in down here. It’s just a shame that we can’t make it work,” McKissick said. “Five, six, seven years from now there might be, but I don’t see it happening between now and then.”
The city will be working with the owners of Pacific Plaza to help fill the space, said
Ricardo Noguera, community and economic development director at the City of Tacoma.
“It’s very unfortunate about the closure. It’s an excellent retail location,” Noguera said. “With the 500-plus market rate units that will be breaking ground this year, I’m sure this space will be filled in no time.”
Noguera said he could see another deli or even a restaurant coming into the space, but he also didn’t rule out another grocery store.
“Stadium Thriftway is less than a mile away and it does very well. You have the Safeway on the Hilltop that’s holding its own,” he said.
With the groundbreaking of 165 units on the Thea Foss Waterway, 145 units between downtown and the Stadium District, 100 units on the Hilltop and 220 units at Point Ruston this year, Noguero said he expects several hundred more people to be living in and around downtown by 2016.
“The demand for grocer services is going to go up significantly,” he said.