A REFLECTION OF THE COMMUNITY

SAN FRANCISCO -- Fulton Market by Albertsons here offers a product mix as diverse as the consumers it is trying to serve.The chain's newest store in Northern California, which opened early last month, is surrounded by a population base that's 30% Asian, 13% Hispanic and 10% African-American, with a large Russian-Jewish population, a large group of health-conscious consumers in nearby Haight Ashbury

SAN FRANCISCO -- Fulton Market by Albertsons here offers a product mix as diverse as the consumers it is trying to serve.

The chain's newest store in Northern California, which opened early last month, is surrounded by a population base that's 30% Asian, 13% Hispanic and 10% African-American, with a large Russian-Jewish population, a large group of health-conscious consumers in nearby Haight Ashbury and students from the University of San Francisco less than a mile away,

The 52,000-square-foot store is located in a densely populated area in the heart of the city, near Golden Gate Park, in an abandoned strip center that's still called Petrini Plaza, even though the Petrini's store that stood there for more than 35 years shut down years ago. An independent operator occupied the space subsequently before closing five years ago, and the original building has been razed to make way for Fulton Market.

Securing the property, designing the store and then building it was a five-year project that involved acceding to input from the city and some of the store's neighbors, Albertsons executives told SN.

"This is an example of the new Albertsons and the way we are willing to work with the community to find ways to get things done," Peter Lynch, the chain's president and chief operating officer, said at the store's grand-opening ceremonies. "The new Albertsons is getting back into the community here in San Francisco, and in Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas and elsewhere because we're a corporation that cares about people and the cities we serve."

Because urban space is so limited and commercial real estate is so expensive here, Albertsons designed the store in conjunction with a local residential developer, who built 134 condominiums above the store; in addition, Albertsons agreed to include spaces for five shops across the front of the store's exterior, which the city insisted must be leased to non-chain store operators.

To accommodate neighborhood concerns about parking congestion, the store's parking lot was installed below the store, with elevators that enable customers to move carts from the store to their cars.

To accommodate concerns about nighttime noise levels, Albertsons agreed to close the store at 10 p.m. rather than operate on a 24-hour basis, with the store's pharmacy closing at 8 p.m. weekdays and 5 p.m. weekends.

However, because the city wanted to give Albertsons the option of keeping the pharmacy open on a 24-hour basis, it suggested the chain install a sliding panel that could extend from the front of the store to the back, enabling the chain to close off all areas except those that would be found in a freestanding drug store: the pharmacy, general merchandise area and the dairy.

Albertsons has not yet decided whether to utilize that option, chain executives told SN.

According to Harvey Molendyk, vice president, merchandising, for Albertsons' Northern California division, Fulton Market by Albertsons is merchandised to cater to the varying needs of the different demographic groups it serves. "We put as much merchandise into the store as we could -- we've attempted not to miss anything," he told SN.

"This store raises the bar for the [Northern California] division in terms of quality standards. It's a traditional Albertsons in terms of pricing, selection and presentation, but we tried to be a step above, and we think this store is the nicest Albertsons in the division today."

The store's highlights include the following:

A 31-foot, waist-high "bread bar" across the front wall leading into the produce area, featuring a variety of fresh and packaged sourdough breads -- a San Francisco specialty -- from a variety of local bakers.

A produce section with something for each of the store's varied clientele, including 20 feet of Asian vegetables (Chinese eggplant, napa cabbage, snow peas, snap peas); 12 feet for African-American items (kale, collard greens, rhubarb, okra); a variety of chile peppers, jicama, hayote, tomatillos and other items -- plus fresh and dried spices -- for Hispanic customers; and an assortment of natural and organic items for health-conscious shoppers.

Produce island displays are built on hexagonal fixtures composed of shipping crates to convey an old-fashioned, farm-fresh look, Molendyk said. The department also features Albertsons' Farmers Market program, which originated in the division here, in which four or more items purchased locally in quantities too small for the division as a whole are featured as unadvertised weekly specials.

A refrigerated case adjacent to the wet rack with 65 vegetarian items, including tofu, soy pasta, meat-free hot dogs, veggie meatballs, veggie salami and soy cheese.

A delicatessen area with a service counter featuring deli meats, salads and the chain's Quick Fixin's prepared entrees-to-go, along with fried and rotisserie chicken, rotisserie turkey breast and barbecued ribs; an olive and antipasto bar; a fresh sushi table; a "meal center" featuring heat-and-eat and value-added party items; and a specialty cheese section.

A certified kosher bakery to accommodate the area's Jewish population -- the first kosher bakery in the chain's Northern California division, Molendyk said -- featuring bagels, rolls and artisan breads from different local bakeries in one corner, a service counter with cookies and decorated cakes and freestanding displays of packaged goods.

A meat department on the store's rear wall that includes gourmet items like Black Angus beef; Empire fresh and frozen kosher poultry items; and Laura's Natural Beef (from cattle raised without antibiotics and hormones).

An expanded case of milk and dairy products "to carry the fresh feel into the back of the store," Molendyk said.

An in-store pharmacy adjacent to the nonfoods section on the left side of the store "to draw customers to that side," Molendyk said.

A floral section consisting of a service counter, a refrigerated case and four displays in buckets at the front of the store, next to greeting cards.

Three boutique sections across the front -- natural and organic foods, wine and international foods -- set off by superstructures hanging from the ceiling, with track lighting, that were designed to accommodate the city's request that the store have a boutique feel, Molendyk said.