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Changes are in store as new owner takes helm at Walla Walla's Harvest Foods

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The Second Avenue grocery store that’s served the Southgate neighborhood nearly six decades will continue its streak as a family-owned business.

Randi Kelly takes ownership of Walla Walla’s Harvest Foods on Dec. 2. She and her grandson, Brad Kelly, will respectively own and manage the operation, she said Wednesday.

Financial details of the deal have not been disclosed.

The two are new to the grocery industry but not the property or local business.

The Southgate Center that houses Walla Walla’s Harvest Foods, 905 S. Second Ave., and other businesses, was developed by Randi Kelly’s late father-in-law, William Kelly, in the late 1950s.

A grocery store has always anchored the center, she said. The family continues to oversee the property. Kelly also operates laundromat services, including Eastgate Laundry Corner on Isaacs Avenue.

The lifelong Walla Walla resident said she wants the grocery location to remain the home of an independent market.

With the lease for Walla Walla’s Harvest Foods expiring in February, and owners Nolan and Kathleen Lockwood having been unsuccessful in their search for a buyer as they prepared for retirement, Kelly stepped in to carry on the retail tradition.

“I wanted to keep a grocery store in the neighborhood,” she said. “I wanted to keep the jobs.”

She said the long-reputed focus on customer service will continue as the heartstone of the operation. A new name, however, is coming, along with the end of the Harvest Foods affiliation.

Kelly said the store will join the CenterPlace Market family of operations. The new store name will be Southgate Center Market.

“I’ve been very lucky that most of the employees have been gracious enough to say with me and help me out,” she said.

Kelly and her late husband, Frank, were long out of the neighborhood but were shoppers at the store to support the business and the property.

The focus on local products — from wine to produce — is something that will carry forward. She hopes to expand the selection with more fresh homemade items in the store. Kelly said she expects the changed affiliation will also be able to help lower some of the prices on goods.

She plans to continue the personal touches with discounts to veterans and senior citizens, and free cookies at the bakery for “kids of all ages.” Monthly promotions and specials will be featured.

“I think our main focus will be customer service,” she said. “I’m going to do everything that I can to make my customers happy.”

The store will operate daily, 7 a.m.-8 p.m.

Kelly said closure will take place Dec. 2 and 3, as she takes ownership. During that time, she said, a deep cleaning will take place, and the interior will be painted. The sign outside will also change.

A grand reopening is expected the second week of December, with details to be determined.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 509-526-8321.

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.