Locations of the former Sam's Food City won't stay vacant long.
Dollar General grocery stores will be moving into the three sites in Modesto, Turlock and Livingston where the nearly 60-year-old family-owned chain closed in February.
The new stores will join other Dollar General sites in the area, including stores on Tully Road in Modesto, West Main Street in Ripon and Yosemite Boulevard in Waterford. One is being built on Yosemite Boulevard in Modesto.
Although it has "Dollar" in the name, only about 20 percent of the merchandise at Dollar General goes for that much.
"We focus on price and convenience," said Dan MacDonald, the company's senior director of corporate communications. That includes grocery items and general merchandise such as detergent and pharmacy goods.
"We tend to be about 40 percent cheaper than a pharmacy and about 20 percent cheaper than a typical grocery store," MacDonald said. The trade-off isn't in quality MacDonald cited brands including Jif, Tide and Procter & Gamble but in options. Dollar General doesn't carry multiple sizes of each product.
Progress at the three sites is at varying stages, with Turlock's the only one with a scheduled opening. That will come in September, MacDonald said.
In Modesto, a $450,000 renovation is under way, according to the city's Economic Development Department.
Each store likely will hire six to 10 employees, MacDonald said.
The openings are good news for residents who live near the shopping centers. When Sam's closed, several longtime customers said they would miss having a full grocery store within easy walking distance of home.
In Modesto, EAH Housing is in the midst of building Archway Commons, a low-income housing complex, across the street.
"I'm happy that anything is moving in there because of concern for the housing going in across the street," said Marilyn Rowland, who was an occasional shopper at Sam's in Modesto. "Food Maxx a half-mile away, but a half-mile is a half-mile. Anything that goes in there works for me, and I hope it works for the new residents on Carver."
Rowland said she shopped at Sam's "only if I ran out of something." She was in the Dollar General on Tully once, shortly after it opened, but didn't form an opinion. Still, "we'll absolutely check it out."
Debbie Giese of Modesto was a frequent Sam's Food City shopper. Asked which store or stores she shops at instead, she said, "We're still struggling with that. We go to Winco, Grocery Outlet. We get our produce at Winco and the farmers market. The only place you can get the meat like Sam's had is to go to O'Brien's. The meat they had there (at Sam's) you could ask them for a certain cut, and they'd cut it for you.
"There's no way you can cover what we lost with Sam's. I'd been shopping there since I was 8," Giese said, noting that three generations of her family were Sam's shoppers. As for Dollar General, "I'll check it out, but it doesn't mean I'll shop there. There's just no replacing Sam's."
Most Dollar General stores are roughly 7,000 feet. These new ones are larger, because they are taking over existing sites, MacDonald said. The biggest is the Turlock store, with 16,000 square feet.