Months of dust and detours officially ended at Rosauers market Wednesday with the grand reopening ceremony in the store's north entrance.
Store officials and local business and government leaders celebrated the completion of the store's 4,500-square-foot expansion remodeling project, highlighted by larger produce and Huckleberries natural foods sections
"This is really exciting," Store Manager Kevin Harris said. "Over the past six months there have been a lot of challenges, and it is our employees who put in the extra hours and made it all happen.
"We take pride in being a family shopping center for Hood River. We want to be known as a Mom-and-Pop kind of place," Harris said.
That happens "through our employees, and how they connect with people, and through being active in our community.
"Our employees are the ones who build relationships with the community," Harris said.
During the project, customers endured construction barriers, plywood sheeting and exposed wires and subflooring, as well as frequently relocated merchandise, as crews finished one part of the project and then uprooted fixtures and merchandise to do the next phase.
On Wednesday, Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors joined Harris, Rosauers CEO Jeff Phillips and other company officials in the ribbon-cutting. Mayor Arthur Babitz participated along with Mark Johnson, State House Representative-elect from Hood River.
"The Hood River community has been incredibly supportive of this store," said Phillips of the Spokane-based company. "There's been tremendous support ever since the store opened in 1969." Rosauers last expanded the store in 2001.
Rosauers customers enjoy larger produce and health foods sections, among other changes. The store now has more room for dry and refrigerated products, as well as back-room storage. A new roadway was constructed on the south side to allow service access to the rear of the building. Energy-efficient updates were installed throughout, including solar panels on the store roof.
The store features a bigger selection of beer and wine to include local producers, a new soup and olive bar, and expanded deli, produce and grocery departments, along with updated décor.
Hood River is the 18th of the company's 20 stores to receive recent renovations. According to Phillips, its standing in the community led the company to "leap-frog" it ahead of two other sites in the renovation schedule, because of community support and the company's analysis of the return on the investment.
Phillips cited two specific factors: the demand in Hood River for ethnic foods based on the large Hispanic population, and the great success of the Huckleberries section.
"We're trying to make sure we are offering to the community all the products that it needs,' Phillips said.
Huckleberries features health foods, bulk products, vitamin and health supplements and gluten-free and ethnic items.
"In 2001, if we had known how popular it would turn out to be, we would have built it larger," Phillips said. The Huckleberries section has more than doubled in size.
Rosauers officials on hand also included Dave Grecco, district manager; and Director of Operations Mike Shirts, who was Hood River store manager from 1987-89.
It was old-home week for Shirts, who connected with former co-workers and several customers who he said recognized him.
"It is just great to come back and see people. I love this store," Shirts said. "I think it looks great," he said of the renovations. "The colors are a lot brighter. It's just so much more inviting."
"Rosauers is a great company to work with," said Boyd's Coffee employee Dan Cummens, making complimentary lattes and mochas for customers along with Adam Lauser.
"I recently negotiated a contract with them and they looked for the best deal they could get, but then they asked me, 'Will you make a profit on this?' They wanted the best deal but only if it was one that was also going to be beneficial to me. What a concept; 'We have to make sure you're making money, too.'" He said that attitude "starts at the top."