LIVINGSTON -- One food chain recently closed its doors in Livingston, but another is working on getting its doors open in an area some have labeled a "food desert."
Representatives from Rancho San Miguel Markets, which has locations in Merced, Stockton, Lodi and Madera, told city officials that they plan to break ground on the project this summer.
The 55,000-square-foot grocery store will be on the northeast corner of Winton Parkway and B Street, said City Manager Jose Antonio Ramirez. The project has been approved since 2006, but a lawsuit between Rancho San Miguel and the developer stalled the project.
City leaders are anxious for the new full-service grocery store, especially since Sam's Food City closed Saturday.
The small, family-owned grocery chain has been around for more than 50 years, but management recently decided to close its stores in Livingston, Modesto and Turlock. At one time, the chain also had locations in Newman, Patterson and Oakdale.
The general manager attributed the closures to tight profit margins and increased competition.
There are still grocery stores in Livingston, but Mayor Pro Tem Gurpal Samra said the city needs an option with more variety. "It's going to get worse with Sam's closing," he said.
Many residents have been eager for Rancho San Miguel to open.
"People are more anxious now," said Samra of the reaction to Sam's closing. He added that when he needs to get a lot of groceries, he often goes to Merced or Turlock.
Once Rancho San Miguel locates in Livingston, Samra expects the city to retain a lot of the sales tax revenue it leaks to other nearby cities with better grocery-store options.
Ramirez agrees with that. He said it will also generate about 150 full-time and part-time jobs.
The store could also spur more development in the area, Ramirez said.
"This is going to be a great anchor for us to attract other service providers and vendors," he said, noting that city officials have been working with CVS and AutoZone.
Ramirez anticipates that a combination of the three will locate in the same area of Livingston.
Representatives from Rancho San Miguel Markets couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.