Ray’s in Hoopa and Willow Creek to Stay Open Despite Bankruptcy Filing

By KRISTAN KORNS, Two Rivers Tribune

C&K Market, which operates 60 grocery stores including Ray’s Food Place, filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in November and has plans to close 16 of their grocery stores in Oregon and California.

The company announced that it will continue operating its stores as normal during the bankruptcy process, while it develops a reorganization plan.

Doug Nidiffer, C&K’s chairman of the Board, said, “We seriously considered our options, and believe this approach is in the best interest of many of the communities we’ve served over the years.”

The announcement that C&K Market was filing for bankruptcy protection came just one month after the company took steps to sell all of its pharmacies in southern Oregon and Northern California.

Before the sale, the company owned 15 pharmacies operating under the names Pharmacy Express, Tiffany’s Drugs, and Chetco Pharmacy and Gifts.

Gregory Sandeno, president of C&K Market, said, “In a move to strengthen our operations, we plan to focus exclusively on our core business of operating community grocery stores.”

The company operates seven Ray’s Food Place grocery stores in Humboldt County, in Eureka, Hoopa, Arcata, McKinleyville, Fortuna, Garberville, and Willow Creek.

The Eureka store is the only one in Humboldt County on the closure list, as C&K Market sells its less-profitable locations.

Out of the 16 locations picked for closure, eight are in towns with one or more Walmart stores, four are within three to seven miles of at least one Walmart,  two are within 10 miles, and two – Harbor, Oregon and Willits, California — are around 20 miles from the nearest Walmart.

C&K Market released a statement on the company’s website, citing the increased competition as the reason for the closures. “As competition increased from larger grocers and mega-stores, more people left their communities to shop in those stores. Sales declined in some of our stores, forcing us to realize we could no longer operate profitably in some markets.”

In Hoopa, C&K Market rents the building for Ray’s Food Place from the Hoopa Valley Tribe.

Former Tribal Chairman Leonard Masten Jr., talked with the TRT when he was negotiating a new three-year contract with C&K Market in February 2011.

“This Ray’s is the oldest, going back to the 1970’s,” Masten said, adding they’ve been good tenants and that the Hoopa store is the chain’s top revenue producer.

Ray’s Food Place operates the only full-sized grocery stores in the Klamath-Trinity region, with only small local stores for competition: Pearson’s Grocery in Weitchpec, Orleans Market in Orleans, the Mini Mart in Hoopa, River Song

Natural Foods and two small convenience stores inside the Chevron and Patriot gas stations in Willow Creek.

Tribal Councilmember Diana McCovey-Ferris said, “The Hoopa store does very very well for Ray’s.”

The noticeable lack of local competition on prices led to many people in the community questioning whether or not the prices at Ray’s in Hoopa were artificially set higher. A group of local food advocates conducted a study to compare prices.

Hoopa residents Meagan Baldy and Rhoby Cook worked on the study, checking prices in Hoopa, Willow Creek, Weaverville, and at stores on the coast.

“We compared the same products and if the cans were different sizes, then we took the ounces and calculated the per-ounce price,” Cook said. “All of the regional supermarkets came out very similar.”

Cook and Baldy used a shopping list and retail price comparison tool taken from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website to compare prices.

They found that the North Coast Co-op was most expensive. Ray’s was in the middle along with Murphy’s Market in Eureka and Top’s in Weaverville, while Safeway and WinCo Foods were the least expensive.

“By the time you add in transportation costs, if you’re not shopping at WinCo then you’re not saving any money by going to the coast,” Cook said.

She said the study also revealed another surprising result. “Ray’s in Willow Creek was often a little more expensive than Ray’s in Hoopa.”

Other complaints from community members center on C&K Market changing milk suppliers.

In June 2013, the company announced an “expanded relationship” with Umpqua Dairy from Roseburg, Oregon, Eberhard’s Dairy from Redmond, Oregon, and Producer’s Dairy from Fresno, California.

Hoopa resident Joyce Johnson said, “When Ray’s changed the brand of milk, it goes bad within a day or two.”

Rosella Moon said, “Everybody is noticing that they switched from Humboldt Creamery to Producer’s and it’s spoiling.”

Cook said locals have many concerns about Ray’s, but the fact that it’s here in Hoopa makes a huge difference for the community. “It would be a disaster if Ray’s in Hoopa shut down.”

Despite C&K Market’s bankruptcy filing, their Hoopa store seems certain to remain open.

Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairperson Danielle Vigil-Masten said, “For the square footage they lease, they’re getting a very good rate because they provide a service for our community. If they weren’t here providing groceries, we wouldn’t have a store.”

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January 9th, 2014

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