Big Bear Lake, CA — The ice cream counter at Rite Aid has been a fun summer staple in Big Bear Lake since the mid-1970s when the store was a brand-new Thrifty, one of the original anchor stores, along with Safeway and Sprouse Reitz, of the Interlaken Center on Big Bear Boulevard. The retail location has been a Rite Aid since 1997, when the Pennsylvania-based corporation purchased a thousand Thrifty and Payless stores, but the Big Bear location will be closing in May, with a May 7 closure of the Rite Aid pharmacy. According to Eric Harkreader, spokesman for the Rite Aid Corporation, “On the one hand, our lease was up, but it is still a business decision and one that, like many retailers, we evaluate our operations from time to time, to make sure that our stores make good financial sense. Sometimes it is beneficial to the company to close underperforming stores.”
Though a definitive close date has not yet been named for the store, the pharmacy will close on May 7, at which time Rite Aid customers will have their prescriptions transferred to CVS, the pharmacy just a few doors to the south. The redirect of pharmacy clients to CVS does not make for an easy transition for Stater Bros. and Vons employees who belong to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, however. In a conversation with KBHR, George Frahm, Executive Vice President of Retail Operations for Stater Bros. Markets, says, “Our employees receive their benefits through a trust fund, and rules of the trust do not allow employees to use Walgreens or CVS. They can have their prescriptions filled at any pharmacy, but then they have to pay up front and then submit for reimbursement. It wouldn’t be as easy as it is now, with a Rite Aid, but there are ways for people to get their prescriptions, including through the mail.” So, employees belonging to the food workers union may have to make the commute, as will existing Rite Aid employees, to another Rite Aid location, of which there are 15 (as the crow flies) within 25 miles of Big Bear Lake, including stores in Blue Jay, Yucaipa, Redlands, Apple Valley and Loma Linda.
So while Rite Aid, and likely the ice cream counter, move out of the Interlaken Center, no word yet on what will be moving in. According to the City of Big Bear Lake’s Redevelopment Director Lyle Haynes, “The retail industry is really changing, and there’s a lot of moving and shaking out going on. Really, we need to think about if we have a Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid, how many of these can the City really support?” Though the City was not involved in the lease negotiation between Interlaken’s owners, Sun Coast Development based in Orange County, and the Rite Aid Corporation, Haynes adds, “We are going to work with Sun Coast to find a suitable lessee. I view this as a great opportunity for the Interlaken Center and an opportunity for Big Bear Lake to diversify our retail base.”