Monthly Archives: September 2015

Report: Haggen plans to close Kitsap stores

haggenClick here for our story on the proposed Haggen store closures. 

Update: Citing bankruptcy court documents, the Bellingham Herald reports Haggen plans to close stores in East Bremerton, Gig Harbor and Silverdale, in addition to the Port Orchard store.

The Seattle Times has a map of proposed store closures here. The closure plan requires court approval.

Haggen plans to close most of its newly-acquired stores and regroup around 37 “core stores” in the Northwest, according to a Thursday news release.

The Seattle Times reports Haggen has selected about 14 Washington stores for closure, including the former Safeway in Port Orchard. Haggen also operates former Albertsons stores in Silverdale and East Bremerton.

In an email, a Haggen representative said a full list of stores slated for closure would be released at 5 p.m. Thursday.

Affected employees will be given 60-day notice before their stores are closed, according to the release.

The reorganization is part of an ongoing bankruptcy for the Bellingham-based grocer. Haggen acquired 146 former Albertsons and Safeway locations across the west early this year but struggled to compete in some of its new markets.

The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Sept. 9.

If you’re a Haggen employee and want to share your perspective on the situation, please contact me at tad.sooter@kitsapsun.com or 360-475-3783.

The full news release is posted below: Continue reading

Virginia Mason adds virtual care clinic

VMPatients can now consult with Virginia Mason health professionals face-to-face without leaving home.

The Seattle-based medical group announced the launch of a “virtual care clinic” Wednesday that links providers with patients via video-conferencing. The service is available to both existing and new Virginia Mason patients, according to a news release.

Providers can diagnose ailments, recommend courses of treatment and prescribe medications through the virtual clinic. The cost is $35.

Most insurance plans don’t cover virtual care, though that’s beginning to change. Virginia Mason’s online clinic is not available to Medicaid or Medicare clients.

Virginia Mason joins a growing number of health care groups offering virtual care and telemedicine. CHI Franciscan Health, parent company of Harrison Medical Center, recently opened its virtual urgent care portal to Kitsap County patients. 

Virginia Mason has also expanded services locally with the addition of no-appointment urgent care on Bainbridge Island. 

The website for Virginia Mason Virtual Care Clinic is virginiamason.org/Virtual-Clinic.

Starbucks opens in Kingston

Starbucks_1414714707663_9393554_ver1.0_640_480Kingston ferry commuters have a new coffee option.

Starbucks opened a store with drive-thru Monday next to Rite Aid on Highway 104, east of the Miller Bay Road intersection.

The café has seating for 50 and will employ 19 “partners,” according to a company spokeswoman. Store hours are 4:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily.

New Starbucks stores have been popping up all over the county in the past year. The first standalone Starbucks on Bainbridge Island opened in 2014, along with a Wheaton Way location in Bremerton.

Starbucks added a store and drive-thru at Silverdale Way and Bucklin Hill Road in July. Another is planned for Poulsbo’s College Marketplace. 

The opening of the Kingston café brings the county’s Starbucks count to 21 (including Starbucks kiosks inside larger stores).

Bainbridge marijuana store welcomes tribal competition

Paper_Leaf_IMG_6115_webAfter news broke the Suquamish Tribe would be entering the recreational marijuana market this fall, I was interested in gauging the reaction of the nearest state-licensed marijuana retailer.

That retailer is Paper & Leaf, a marijuana store that opened on Bainbridge Island in June. The Suquamish marijuana shop will be located about three miles north of Paper & Leaf on Highway 305.

In an email, Paper & Leaf co-owner Brendan Hill said he sees the tribe’s entry into the industry as part of a groundswell of support for legalized marijuana:

Personally, we are excited to see interest in the legalized retail recreational marijuana landscape expanding.  As one of the fastest growing new industries in Washington, we feel grateful to be invested in a business model that can welcome others with open arms. 

When my partner, Steve Kessler, and I made the decision to open Paper & Leaf, it was because we had a unique vision for the store. We wanted to create a welcoming, artistic atmosphere that reflected both of our personalities and individual interests—as well as that of the community of Bainbridge Island—which we are fortunate enough to call home.

Judging by public response and consumer feedback, we’ve been successful in meeting this goal, and we feel confident in the unparalleled experience we are able to offer our customers.

With that being said, we have no concerns on the pending opening of any retail cannabis shop, as each new store is further testament to the increase in market demand and the public’s evolving opinion of cannabis in the main stream.

As more shops open, consumers not only benefit, but also the farmers and ecosystem of cannabis as a whole. We wish all those entering the market the best of luck in their new business venture.

Health exchange no longer handling payments

healthplanfinderThe state health exchange is getting out of the payment processing business.

Beginning at 5 p.m. Wednesday, customers who bought insurance through Washington Healthplanfinder will make premium payments directly to their insurance carriers.

Healthplanfinder will no longer accept payments. Billing questions should also be directed to the insurance companies, according to a news release.

The change does not affect business customers or Apple Health (Medicaid) customers.

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange board voted to make the change last December after hearing complaints from customers and insurance companies, according to a news release.

“By taking the Exchange out of the payment process, customers and insurance companies can work directly on any accounting-related issues,” interim Exchange CEO Pam MacEwan said in the release. “This frees the Exchange to do what we do best.”

Billing was not what the Exchange and its partners did best.

Healthplanfinder was plagued by glitches over the past two years. A tax calculation error derailed Healthplanfinder on the first day of open enrollment for 2015.

In February the Exchange mistakenly double- and  triple-charged customers for March insurance coverage. The agency promised to have the charges reversed within 48 hours. But, as I chronicled on this blog, it took weeks for one Poulsbo woman to get her account sorted out.

The open enrollment period for 2016 health plans begins Nov. 1.

The Exchange has the following tips for existing customers as they transition to paying insurance companies directly:  Continue reading

Les Schwab building tire center on Sedgwick

les-schwab-tireThe Port Orchard Les Schwab will move from Bay Street to Sedgwick Road early next spring.

Work has already begun on a 12,000-square-foot new tire center across from Fred Meyer.

Les Schwab Assistant Manager Jim Flinner said the Bay Street center had become outdated.

“The company saw our building was older,” he said. “It’s hard to take care of our customers here.”

The new center will be roomier and allow easier access for drivers. The building is being constructed on a 2.7-acre lot and will feature eight garage bays.

“It’s going to be a really nice facility,” Flinner said.

Les Schwab expects to move south to Sedgwick in mid-April. Flinner said no decisions have been made on what will happen with the 1216 Bay Street property, which Les Schwab owns.

Brown Bear planning car wash in Poulsbo

 

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Brown Bear plans to build a car wash on the site of its old Highway 305 gas station in Poulsbo.

Car Wash Enterprises, parent company of Brown Bear, is proposing a single-lane, tunnel-style car wash on the 0.75-acre parcel, according to city planning documents. The proposal also includes eight covered vacuum stations and a two-lane auto pay station.

The property is located at the southeast corner of  Highway 305 and Hostmark Street. A pre-application meeting for the proposal was held Sept. 1.

Brown Bear closed and demolished Chevron fuel stations and mini-marts in Poulsbo and on Bainbridge Island early this year, citing challenges in the retail fuel market.

“We are a car wash company,” company Vice President Lance Odermat said at the time. “Fuel is not our core business.”

Your weekly update on the Haggen saga

Haggen2_15364115_ver1.0_640_480Nary a day passes without some fresh revelation on the travails of Haggen, the Bellingham grocer that grew from 18 locations to 164 by gobbling up stores divested in the Albertsons/Safeway merger.

To recap, Haggen filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week. Haggen also sued Albertsons for $1 billion, claiming the grocery giant sabotaged its expansion. Haggen operates three Kitsap County stores in Bremerton, Port Orchard and Silverdale.

Business reporters have been sifting through the bankruptcy filings to gain some insight into the future of the troubled grocer. Here are some recent Haggen headlines:

  • Despite the lawsuit, the Seattle Times reports Haggen is seeking approval for Albertsons to hire back employees from the stores it divested. There was a one-year ban on Albertsons hiring employees from its former stores.

Foreclosure sale looms for College Marketplace properties

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Back in July we reported that much of the vacant land remaining in Poulsbo’s College Marketplace was bound for a trustee’s sale on Oct. 16. 

The public auction is moving ahead, according to a notices of trustee’s sale published Thursday.

The sale will include about 40 tax parcels totaling 60 acres. The properties border the Walmart, Home Depot and Big 5/OfficeMax complexes at the interchange of Highway 3 and Highway 305.

According to the notices, the land owner, Olhava Associates of Edmonds, owes more than $17 million in unpaid loan principal MUFG Union Bank, successor to defunct Frontier Bank. 

The sale won’t include two parcels identified as 3H and 3I, where a car wash and Starbucks are planned. Those parcels recently sold and the notice of trustee’s sale for the Olhava properties was amended to exclude them.

The notices appeared on pages 10B and 11B of the Sept. 17 Kitsap Sun.

S’Klallam Tribe taking cautious approach to marijuana

The Suquamish Tribe made headlines this week as it announced plans to enter the recreational marijuana market by November.

The announcement came after the state Liquor and Cannabis Board voted to approve a marijuana compact with the Suquamish, the first agreement of its kind in the country.

The Squaxin Island Tribe, based in Shelton, is also negotiating a compact with the state, according to the Tacoma News Tribune. 

PortGambleSklallamIn Kingston, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe has taken a cautious approach to the issue of marijuana legalization and sales. PGST Executive Director Kelly Sullivan sent this statement to the Kitsap Sun on Wednesday:

“PGST does not currently have any solid plans to move toward the marijuana business. 

There are several issues on the marijuana spectrum that are being considered. 

Decriminalization, legalization, medicinal use, recreational sale, manufacturing/distributing, all have different potential impacts in our community. 

The Tribe is not taking these decisions lightly and is considering impacts each of these different potential changes and how they each balance with the values of our tribe.”