A Fred Meyer spokeswoman says plans to erect a store in Tumwater won’t displace local businesses but will provide living wage jobs. Marilyn Coffel provided the reassurance Sept. 21 during the last Tumwater Chamber of Commerce forum held at the Tyee Hotel.

The hotel at a busy junction just off Interstate-5 closed at the end of last month. It will be demolished to make way for a 160,000-square-foot Fred Meyer flagship store.

“If you’re looking for specialty products, you’ll go to a bike shop,” Coffel said to make the point that Fred Meyer’s objective is not to drive others from the marketplace. Fred Meyer carries several major brands of bikes, she said, but does not specialize. The store is meant to be a one-stop shop for everything from groceries to clothes, hardware and plants, she said. Departments within the flagship store will also include a jewelry store, deli, juice bar and even a sushi bar, she said.

“We usually act as an anchor, bringing in business to the whole community,” Coffel said. “We revitalized the downtown core in Renton when we went in there. Rather than fear Fred Meyer, see if we can share some of our expertise.” Coffel said the company can work with the local chamber to give seminars on how businesses can retain and hone their niches in an expanding retail market.

Fred Meyer’s main competition includes larger stores such as Costco, Target and Wal-Mart, Coffel said.

“We’re looking for the time-poor, value-conscious consumer,” Coffel said of those to whom the store hopes to appeal. When Fred Meyer moves to the former hotel site, its next-door neighbor will be Costco. There is a Target a few miles away in Olympia’s west side. The nearest Wal-Mart is in Shelton, about half an hour away by car.

Fred Meyer is not a destination store, Coffel said, meaning customers do not typically go out of their way to get to one.

“Eighty percent of our customers live within two miles of the store,” Coffel said.

The $24 million Tumwater store is expected to employ 250 full- and part-time employees.

Because of the tight labor market, Fred Meyer takes care to offer competitive salaries, Coffel said. Employees who put in more than 20 hours a week are given the same benefits as full-time workers, she added.

“It’s not unusual for a grocery checker to make $36,000 a year,” she said.

In other developments, Kathy Houston, director of the Girl Scouts Pacific Peaks Council, says the council has decided not to sell to Fred Meyer property that houses its offices adjacent to the site. Fred Meyer had hoped to acquire it for parking. The council had been planning to move sometime in the future, Houston says, but to move now would be premature.

By Kamilla K. McClelland, Business Examiner staff