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Two more Fresh & Easy stores to open

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San Diego County will soon be home to two more Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market grocery stores, and even more are in the long-term pipeline, according to a company spokesman.

Fresh & Easy stores, owned by British grocery giant Tesco (Nasdaq: TESO), are designed to be community and environmentally friendly markets that offer fresh food at lower prices. So far, the stores are only in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada, with stores scheduled to open in Northern California next year.

San Diego County is already home to six of the stores, with one each in Chula Vista, Casa de Oro, Fallbrook, Vista, Escondido and the city of San Diego on Lake Murray Boulevard near Navajo Road.

Another location is scheduled to be open in Point Loma in mid-August, according to company spokesman Brendan Wannacott. An eighth location is planned for Mira Mesa, but Wonnacott said it was too soon to tell when that store would open.

"We don't give a schedule per se (when stores will open) because the anticipated completion dates don't always happen," Wonnacott said. "Some have moved considerably, both forward and backward."

Nearly all Fresh & Easy stores take up a 15,000-square-foot footprint, except those that go into an already existing space. About 10,000 square feet is usually dedicated to shopping space.

Fresh & Easy has about 60 stores in the southwest, with about 29 in Southern California. Most are in Orange County, but there are also locations in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire, in addition to San Diego County.

Fresh & Easy unveiled most of these locations within a five-month span beginning in late 2007. In late March, the company announced it would halt expansion until the summer, a move some analysts said was an indication that the venture wasn't going as well as parent company Tesco had hoped.

Recent analyst reports, however, suggest Tesco is showing growth this fiscal year. The company's Web site shows sites for dozens more "future" Fresh & Easy locations all over California and the southwest.

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