When the dust cleared from the Haggen bankruptcy auction, Smart & Final came out the winner with eleven stores. It wasn't actually a contest -- Albertson's, Gelson's, 99 Ranch and Bristol Farms all came away with store locations, but many shoppers were surprised to see Smart & Final on the list.
"We're staying true to who we are," said Marisol Marks with Smart & Final. "We're just expanding our products that we sell in the store."
Smart & Final Extra is the name of the stores that are going into the San Diego locations. They are a cross between a big box store and a neighborhood supermarket, and Ron Mercurio likes what he sees.
"The old stores were kind of dark and depressing," said Mercurio. "This is really nice."
In the face of increased competition from Costco, Walmart and Target, stores like Smart & Final have had to reinvent themselves. They are now competing with neighborhood grocery stores.
"So we do have our warehouse size products but we are also a grocery store in that we have our supermarket products," said Marks.
The Extra stores have a large produce section along with fresh meat and bulk items. They will still have extra large containers of rice, flour, beans and nacho cheese like the traditional Smart & Final stores, but it will have more of a traditional grocery store feel. However the stores will not have a deli section or bakery.
Jamie Mullins is sold on the idea.
"It's like a Costco but it's got the grocery store side of it too," Mullins said.
Company officials say they are 16 percent cheaper than traditional grocery stores. Over 1,800 items are specifically for retail, non-profit and business customers. Smart & Final is owned by the same investment company that owns 99 Cent Only Stores. They are non-union.
The Smart & Final stores will be in Carlsbad on Carlsbad Village Drive, Chula Vista on East H Street, Coronado on B Avenue, El Cajon on Camino Canada and Fletcher Parkway, La Mesa on Avocado Avenue, Tierrasanta on Tierrasanta Boulevard, Mira Mesa on Westview Parkway, San Diego on University Avenue, Santee on Magnolia Avenue and San Ysidro on W. San Ysidro Boulevard.
Company officials say they will have all 11 stores opened in San Diego by June 2016.