Spencer's Fresh Markets Closing in SLO - KCOY Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo - News

Spencer's Fresh Markets Closing in SLO

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SANTA MARIA -  When it comes to independently owned grocery store chains on the Central Coast, John Spencer is the last owner standing.
"I started in this store as a meat cleanup kid trying to put gas in my Camaro", John Spencer says standing in the Spencer's Fresh Market on Lakeview Drive in Santa Maria where he began his career in the grocery business as a student at Righetti High School, "42 years later and I'm still standing in a grocery store, I don't know for how much longer but I believe for right now."
Spencer says the decision to close his San Luis Obispo store in the Laguna Village Shopping Center at the end of the year is a reality of the hyper-competitive landscape in the local grocery business.
Spencer says he was unable to secure a favorable lease on the space in the Laguna Village which will now be taken over by the fast-growing Grocery Outlet discount food store chain.
"The days of small, independent retailers, its a challenge", Spencer tells Central Coast News, "the world has gotten very global."

Spencer says he's seen his market share in the local grocery business gradually erode with the onslaught of discount food stores and competition on the Central Coast.

"Walmart, Costco, Target, Dollar stores that's come into play, everybody is in the grocery business", Spencer says, "you walk into a Home Depot and before you get to the first hammer you walk by a couple isles of groceries, everybody is selling groceries."

After the family-owned Scolari's chain closed, and with the Vons on Broadway also closing, Spencer's Fresh Markets stands alone in a crowded marketplace.

John Spencer says his model of providing fresh, locally-grown produce, meat, poultry and fish with exceptional customer service will keep his lifelong namesake enterprise in the game amid the crowded and increasingly competitive landscape.

"We're pretty fortunate, we have a pretty loyal clientele, people who like things sort of the traditional way", Spencer says, "we're still picking up local produce at the (grower) sheds five days a week, which is a good thing, try to bring that local flavor to our area and we'll keep fighting the good battle."

Spencer says he still employs about 130 people in his two remaining stores in Morro Bay and Santa Maria, some of whom he says have worked with him since he started in the early 1970's.

Spencer's Fresh Markets have closed in Atascadero, Arroyo Grande and now in San Luis Obispo.

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