Pictured: Steve “K.O.” Klassen challenged Phil Hertzog of Mammoth Outdoor Sports to a boxing match at next week’s industry trade show in Colorado./
Mammoth Lakes’ only supermarket, Vons, will soon get a long-awaited makeover.
The project, first announced late last year, won Mammoth Lakes Planning Commission’s design review approval on Wednesday, putting it another step closer to an April start date.
According to Associate Planner Jessica Morris, the estimated $4.5 million renovation will mostly feature an exterior upgrade, but will also make a few interior changes as well. The pharmacy and Starbucks operations will be moved outside the supermarket into their own adjacent spaces in the Minaret Mall, partly taking over what used to be the former Elegant Bath and Kitchen location.
Vons Vice President of Real Estate Brian Braaten, who’s been with Safeway, Vons’ parent company, for 15 years, told the Commission he’s been involved in high-profile remodels on stores in other ski areas similar to Mammoth’s snowy climes, such as Bend, Ore., and South Lake Tahoe and Kings Beach in California.
“We opened for business in this location in 1989, and it hasn’t been touched since, so you can see how it’s outdated,” Braaten said. “Mammoth gets visitors from all over the world, and that reflects on the town and the store chain.”
Braaten went on to add that the makeover would include new landscaping and irrigation, and possibly some fish sculpture to reflect the town’s year round fishing and summer popularity. Local artists, he said, will be able to bid on the project when it’s finalized.
The new location for Starbucks, he posited, would have the benefit of adding to the traffic flow in the Minaret Mall. During public comment earlier in the meeting, however, new Mammoth Lakes Chamber of Commerce President Jack Copeland cautioned the Commission about “unintended consequences,” specifically mentioning the potential impact the Starbucks relocation could have on the independently-owned Java Joint, which is only a few doors away in the Mall complex.
Also in the current blueprints for this Vons, historically one of the busiest stores in the entire Safeway supermarket organization: a revamped interior corridor with higher walls and double glazed windows, a revised lighting scheme and a redone outdoor pavilion area.
Morris added that the driveway access from Old Mammoth Road will stay in its current location, but the parking aisles will be realigned to eliminate the somewhat awkward merger lane and form a single drive lane. That will mean relocating the ESTA bus stop to the southwest corner of the lot, only a few feet away from where it is now.
Braaten said Vons hopes to begin work by the first part of April and be done by Memorial Day weekend. Next up: pulling building permits. He said no closure of the market, the pharmacy or Starbucks is expected during the renovation.
Special event or mega sale?
In other Commission news, Planners denied an extension to the Special Event Permit granted in December to Phil Hertzog, owner of Mammoth Outdoor Sports, for part of his Old Mammoth Road Jam at the Sierra Center Mall. An extension would have allowed him to continue screening outdoor ski and snowboard movies, and perhaps more importantly permit banner signage to remain up.
Hertzog claimed that the event, which was scheduled to run from mid-December to Jan. 7, generated lots of visitation, and animated 10,000 square feet of indoor retail space that would have otherwise gone unused. His wife, Robin Stater, also told the Commission that she only heard positive response to the nearby snowplay area, which was in operation when not being used for the site’s rail jam event.
While the rail jam event brought in top riders for exhibitions and meet and greet opportunities, it also met with criticism from other local vendors for its merchandising component. “I don’t know if it was a ‘special event’ or a big sale,” Kittredge Sports and P3 owner Tom Cage commented, dubbing the event a “miscellaneous conglomeration with lots of lights and banner, leading to a big sale.”
Wave Rave owner Steve Klassen suggested that Hertzog was “disingenuous” in his intentions. Tim Gallagher, Wave Rave General Manager, said there were some things to like about the event, such as the outdoor movies and the snowplay area, but took issue with claiming it as a special event, when the public is being “bombed with logos and signs reading ‘huge sale.’” Gallagher said he’s all for animation, but that business owner should conduct themselves with good faith business practices.
Specifically, Gallagher was referring to what he thought was Hertzog’s lack of adherence to the original permit’s Jan. 7 termination date. He also took issue with signage jammed with logos that were, in his opinion and that of Commissioner Elizabeth Tenney’s, not part of the event proposal, and further not allowed by the Town’s sign code.
Bruce Woodward didn’t think much of either the special event idea, which he said isn’t something that lasts 5-6 months, or the snowplay area, the lighting for which he called “atrocious.”
Ultimately, the Commission suggested that Hertzog had taken liberties with his signage, and that there is a need to revisit the Town’s 2011 sign code update to deal with any sort of opportunism in the future. “Mr. Hertzog was given an inch, and took it a mile,” Commissioner Colin Fernie opined. “This was a mega-sale cloaked as a Special Event.”
Hertzog is planning another rail jam event for Feb. 15-16. That event and an extension for use of the snowplay area are being filed for under separate administrative permitting, and are not affected by the Commission’s decision.