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Mixed results for stores near picketed Auburn Raley’s

Some report uptick, while others seeing customers staying away
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - How’s business for stores around a picketed Raley’s in Auburn?

Four days into a strike that has put Raley’s supermarkets throughout Northern California behind picket lines but still open, it depends on which business you talk to.

On Wednesday, while dozens of picketers manned entrances to the Auburn Ravine Center and the Raley’s supermarket at the Foresthill exit off Interstate 80, customer counts were down at some nearby stores in the plaza but up at others.

Next door to Raley’s, Dawn’s Hallmark art supply and card store was hurting but near the entrance to the center, Original Pete’s restaurant was seeing an uptick.

Jerry Urban, owner of Dawn’s Hallmark, said his store’s customer count was way down since picketers set up lines at the Auburn Ravine Center.

With a dozen people holding picket signs standing on the Lincoln Way sidewalk in front of the center, customers are not coming in, he said. November and December are crucial sales months leading to Christmas for the store, he added.

“Business is about half of what it normally is,” Urban said. “There’s not a whole lot customers can do to tell picketers not to scream at them. It scares away a lot of people.”

But Original Pete’s was finding the picket line had shooed business for pizza and sandwiches its way – business it had lost three years ago when Raley’s introduced an in-store deli.

Mike Randhawn, store owner, said he doesn’t like the idea of people out on strike but the picketing had resulted in what he described as an increase in business of about 10 or 15 percent.

“It’s noticeable but not huge,” Randhawn said. “People aren’t crossing the picket line and coming here instead.”

Randhawn added that potential customers could eventually stop making the turn at the Foresthill exit and go on to another that has a grocery store without pickets.

“If it goes on too long, it could take its toll,” Randhawn said.

At the center’s Subway, employee Emily Strief said she also noticed the boost in business since picketing started.

“It’s because they have a deli there and they’re now coming here,” Strief said. “We’ve been really busy.”

At Trendcuts, stylist Christina Breshears said business was slow, starting Monday.

“Shopping centers do well because stores are near Raley’s,” Breshears said. “It becomes one-stop shopping until you take that away. We’ve had three customers in three hours today and would normally have double that number or more.”

For customer Matt Saccheri of Auburn, Wednesday’s brush with the picket line outside the center was an unwelcome one.

Saccheri said he bought bread for a Roseville homeless shelter he volunteers at in the picketed store and heard picketers call him a scab as he waited to pull onto Lincoln Way.

“They were talking trash,” Saccheri said. “And they were trying to provoke a reaction. I shook my head, waited for traffic to clear and left. It was not kosher.”

Saccheri said he lodged a complaint with Raley’s store management.

Raley’s spokesman John Segale said Wednesday that security guards have been posted at all stores and greeters are also stationed at entrances to both welcome and escort customers in and out of stores.

“We have received other calls from both customers and tenants in the area complaining about harassment from the strikers,” Segale said. Local law enforcement has also been made aware of security concerns, he said.

“All our stores remain open,” Segale added. “Our delivery and operations are running well, enabling us to deliver food to our stores, staff the stores and meet the needs of our customers.”

Union officials with the striking United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 8 were contacted Wednesday but had not responded to questions on picket-line rules of conduct.

 The Humane Society of the Sierra Foothills book store in the center was also greeting more customers than normal on Wednesday.

“The traffic is up for a regular Wednesday,” volunteer Linda Slay said. “I assume that picketing Raley’s is the reason they’re coming here – either that or they’re buying a book before the storm comes tomorrow.”