Story last updated at 3:20 p.m. Friday, August 9, 2002

Lost lease shuts down local grocer
by Chris Bernard
Staff Writer

Save-U-More was expected to close its Pioneer Street location Wednesday until a Sterling Highway storefront now under construction can be completed.

To some extent, it was business as usual for the cut-rate merchandiser. The lease problems are not new.

"Here we go again," said flyers hanging at the store last week. "Once again, we've lost our lease and have to close until our new store is open for business."

The store has leased space from Homer businessman Ray Evarts since it opened in 1990. Evarts first served notice of eviction at the end of last year, giving Save-U-More until April 15 to vacate.

But when April came, Evarts gave the store a month's reprieve, and in May he extended Save-U-More's tenure yet again. That extension ended Wednesday, said Valentin Caspaar, CEO of Inorex Inc., which owns Save-U-More stores in Alaska.

Caspaar said that last year Evarts extended the lease for five years, but later the validity of the lease came under dispute.

"He had supposedly a tenant that he wanted to move in there," Caspaar said. "That's why he wanted to kick us out."

The lease is still under dispute.

As of Tuesday, when Caspaar spoke with the Homer News, he had not received any signs that Evarts might give the store a final reprieve. Calls to Evarts and his attorney, William Brattain, were not immediately returned.

Caspaar characterized his relationship with Evarts as "good for the first 12 years, but for the last six months, not so good."

The Homer store's 15 employees will be eligible for rehire when Save-U-More reopens in its new location, said Manager John Saari.

"We hope we can work something out," Caspaar said. "We don't want to lose any employees."

Existing stock will be shipped to other Save-U-More locations or put into storage.

Caspaar plans to move Save-U-More into a 21,000-square-foot building across from the Homer Chamber of Commerce. The $1 million store will carry a wider range of products, including clothes and recreational equipment, he said.

"I hope it will be ready soon," he said. "It depends on a lot of things. I feel bad that we have to close in the meantime. It's a loss of business, and it's a loss to the community."