HAYWARD — After being without a large, full-service supermarket at Southland Mall for the past nine years, residents living in Hayward’s Mt. Eden and Southgate neighborhoods will soon have a new grocery shopping option by this fall in a familiar spot.
Seafood City, a Filipino-oriented supermarket chain, is scheduled to open a 43,000-square-foot store at Southland Mall in a Hesperian Boulevard space once occupied by a Rite-Aid drugstore that closed last summer, according to a press release from the mall’s owner, Rouse Properties.
Like its 24 other existing locations in California, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada and Washington, the planned Seafood City store in Southland Mall will have a food court featuring a range of fast-food options.
“Food culture in communities like Hayward are changing,” Seafood Marketing Manager Mildred Smith said in the release.
“A new generation of foodies look to restaurant chains and grocery stores for new and diverse options. Seafood City is looking forward to feeding that hunger by bringing Hayward a wide variety of ingredients, fresh and frozen, ready-to-eat meals, and more,” she said.
Some city leaders say the Pomona-based supermarket chain will fill a key void in the community made when the Lucky supermarket at Southland Mall, one of its original tenants, closed Aug. 2, 2008. Store managers at the time abruptly announced that the supermarket’s lease was up and its doors would be closing.
That space, at 24500 Hesperian Blvd., is now occupied by a 44,983-square-foot City Sports Club that opened in December 2014.
“It has been a target for the city, all the way from the City Council, city manager, and economic development and development services departments, to bring back a grocery store to that area,” Hayward Economic Development Manager Micah Hinkle said in an interview Monday.
“When we lost Lucky years ago and we ended up with City Sports, there has always been a target to bring a grocery store back, so I think this really brings things full circle to the completion of that. Seafood City is a great operator and will bring a lot of different choices to our diverse community,” he said.
But attracting a grocery store to the Hesperian Boulevard side of Southland Mall has not been easy, some city leaders say.
“In the past, when you have a high rent and a low level of landlord investment, people tend to shy away from that because starting a business is an expensive proposition onto itself, and if you don’t feel like the landlord is a partner with you in that, then it doesn’t feel like a winning proposition,” Hayward City Councilwoman Sara Lamnin said in a Monday interview.
“Now we have a partner who has demonstrated commitment by putting their own skin in the game, and I think it’s paying off,” she said.
Councilman Francisco Zermeno said he previously spoke with Mi Pueblo Food Center, Chavez Supermarket and Arteagas Food Center executives about opening a grocery store in Southland Mall, but all said they were not ready to expand.
“I think they missed out, because Southland has all of that traffic and all of those restaurants, and I’m glad these folks (Seafood City) said, ‘Oh, I think we’re going to have a good, exciting business here,’ ” Zermeno said Monday in an interview.
“If they look at the demographics, with Hayward being such a diverse city, they’re easily going into the right place,” he said.
Hayward Mayor Barbara Halliday, who lived in the Southgate neighborhood for 30 years, said bringing a supermarket back to Southland has been one of her top priorities over the years.
“I think that (Interstate) 880 was like a barrier, and it was often difficult to get from our neighborhood over to the supermarkets on the other side, especially if you had to get on (Highway) 92, and even Winton (Avenue) can get really backed up, so it really did make it difficult for people to make those quick trips,” Halliday said Monday.
“I also think that it made people less likely to go to the mall and patronize it, because it didn’t really meet the neighborhood’s needs as much anymore,” she said.
The planned opening of Seafood City comes on the heels of other renovations and improvements at the mall, including the July 2016 opening of Dick’s Sporting Goods, the planned winter opening of the Cinemark Theatres complex and store renovations underway at Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, said Hayward Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kim Huggett.
“The idea that this will be a supermarket that will face onto Hesperian is very cool, because you get the impulse shoppers in addition to people who are making it a destination supermarket,” Huggett said Monday. Contact Darin Moriki at 510-293-2480 or follow him at Twitter.com/darinmoriki.