British-owned grocer Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market will open a Modesto store early next year in part of a building formerly occupied by Michotti's Marketplace.
A 15,000-square-foot Fresh & Easy store that specializes in high-quality meats, fruits and vegetables, along with deli items, take-home meals and store brands will be in Sylvan Square, according to the owner of the center's leasing company.
"We really feel very fortunate to have landed Fresh & Easy," said Tom Klein of Crosspoint Realty Services in San Francisco.
Sylvan Square, on the northeast corner of Coffee Road and Sylvan Avenue, has Walgreens and Ace Hardware stores as other anchor tenants, and a few restaurants.
Michotti's closed earlier this year, and crews were removing the store's interior fixtures Friday. A sign advertised a store auction last month.
The store was previously a Richland supermarket and was an Alpha Beta store in the 1980s.
Klein said Fresh & Easy will occupy about half of the space that housed Michotti's. The other half is unleased.
The Michotti's spot is difficult to lease to just one tenant because at about 30,000 square feet, Klein said, it's too small for a grocery store such as Save Mart and too big for a specialty grocer such as Trader Joe's.
With Walgreens also in the center, Klein said, he would prefer to have a grocery store in the former Michotti's spot to create the right balance of foot traffic.
Crosspoint also is seeking a tenant for a 6,000-square-foot space between Ace and what was Michotti's. That space was formerly occupied by Basics Plus, an education supply store that closed within the past month, Klein said.
"We're in a challenging economic environment, and I think that'll continue for at least another year," Klein said. "But the tenants here, by and large, are faring very well."
Sushi Garden manager Jae Sim said her business has been normal since Michotti's closed next door. But she said she was happy to hear that another tenant was moving in.
"It's an empty space, and it's not very good," she said.
Fresh & Easy is owned by Tesco, the largest retailer in the United Kingdom, according to its Web site. The site lists several Fresh & Easy locations in Northern California, but the closest stores appear to be in Galt and Oakley.
Fresh & Easy began opening stores in southern California last year. Klein said the Modesto location would be among a few new stores in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
Klein said Fresh & Easy stores feature fresh food and mostly their own brand for typical grocery items such as toothpaste and paper towels. The stores often sell a better-known brand alongside the company's lines, he said.
Fresh & Easy company officials did not return a call seeking comment Friday.