Joshua Dillen
The Baker City Herald

Work is under way at the Baker City site where a Grocery Outlet store is slated to open late this year or early in 2019.

Gyllenberg Construction started work on April 9 preparing the site where the store will be located, just east of the Campbell Street interchange on Interstate 84. Site preparation being done includes erosion control, leveling, bringing utilities to the site and preparation for laying foundations.

Brent Gyllenberg said his company has about five months of work at the site depending on weather conditions.

“We did erosion control on Monday (April 9) and started doing site work on Tuesday,” he said. “We’re getting concrete work and some of the structural work.”

Baker City Manager Fred Warner Jr. said the permitting and planning process has been completed, allowing the project to move forward on the company’s schedule.

The Baker City Planning Commission in January approved the application to construct the approximately 19,000-square-foot store, as well as variances for a larger parking lot and sign than zoning laws typically allow.

“The building department and planning (department) have bought off on their site plan,” Warner said. “The city has done everything we would do for a normal business to get them through the permitting process.”

Kyle Noble, communications manager for Grocery Outlet, said his company is opening about 30 new stores on the West Coast and in Pennsylvania this year. The Baker City store is tentatively going to open in December of this year — one of five that are planned to be opened that month.

Because there are several stores slated to open that month, the Baker City store’s opening could be delayed until early 2019.

“It’s still TBD (to be determined) so I think right now our sweet spot for this store — we would love to get it into 2018 but I could definitely see it landing between December and February,” Noble said. “December could be a bit of a challenge but I know we would love to do it if we could.”

Warner said Grocery Outlet will give local shoppers another choice besides Safeway or Albertsons which are both owned by the same company. Additionally he said the store would boost the local economy by providing jobs.

Noble said most Grocery Outlets typically employ about 30 people, although employment can be as high as 40.

Besides the seven to 18 workers that he will have working at the site depending on the day, Gyllenberg said there will be several other local contractors doing work on the project.

“It’s really good that the locals have gotten an opportunity (to be a part of the project),” he said. “I appreciate that this company is using local workers when they can. “

Noble said the owner/operator of the store has not been selected. Grocery Outlet has a pool of candidates who have either been trained at an existing store or are training. The owner/operator of the Baker City store will be selected this fall and take over its operation once construction is complete.

Noble said typically owner/operators are only allowed to have one Grocery Outlet location, but there are a few exceptions.

Grocery Outlet, which is based in Emeryville, California, has more than 280 independently owned stores in several states. Its Oregon locations include La Grande, Ontario and Pendleton.