Walking through the doors, customers were personally greeted by employees lining the registers and aisles of the store at 730 Turquoise St., which previously was a Haggen's, and before that, an Albertsons.
“We don't see turnouts like this usually,” said Rob McDougall, Gelson's president/CEO, in a brief address before Gelson's opened its doors. “It's our first store with our new décor package inside with all the bells and whistles.”
McDougall noted about half of the employees from previous stores on the site had been retained. One of them is the PB Gelson's store director, Vince Payne.
“If you're half as excited as I am – you're going to love this place,” Payne told the crowd outside before joining his crew inside to greet guests.
Payne noted the exceptional turnout, while not a total surprise, was at “the high end of our expectations.”
“America's finest city can now enjoy America's finest grocery store,” said James Cliame of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce.
The first customer to purchase a product inside the new grocery store was Howard Singer, who said he got in line before 5 a.m. for the 9 a.m. store opening.
Singer said he'd been in other Gelsen's store seeded throughout Southern California, and talked about why he was visiting this one.
“It's an upscale store and it's our only choice locally,” said Singer, a Bird Rock resident. Singer proudly said he was the last – and first – customer at another specialty grocery store, Trader Joe's, that changed locations on Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach a few weeks ago.
Asked what makes Gelson's special, McDougall replied, “Our personal service, the quality of our food and the variety.”
McDougall noted this was the seventh Gelson's to open in the region this year. He praised the clientele now being served.
“I've always felt like we belonged in San Diego,” he said. “Beach customers to my mind are the most down to earth. They like to be outside. They like to barbecue. They like freshness and quality and healthy food aspects.”
McDougall noted Gelson's acquired the Turquoise store from the Haggen grocery chain in November 2015. He said the store was completely gutted during the nearly six-month retrofit.
“They didn't have a kitchen,” he said adding, “We had to create one.”
The ribbon for the first Gelson's supermarket was cut in July 1951 in Burbank in the Los Angeles area. The proprietors back then were Eugene and Bernie Gelson, whose parents had owned a grocery store in Iowa.
Over the years, Gelson's has evolved from an upscale grocery store to a competitively priced multi-departmental supermarket. Gelson's Markets is recognized as one of the nation's premier supermarket chains. Each location is singularly known as the area's best market for superior produce, highest quality meat, seafood and deli, an unmatched selection of wine and liquor, and exceptional service.