Wild Oats, Whole Foods, and guess who!
Photo courtesy Miles Hochstein / Portland Ground.
Our weekend speculation about what's going to happen to the Wild Oats store on NE Fremont, now that Whole Foods is buying out Wild Oats, was fun. But it gets a whole lot more interesting when you consider who owns that building. I'll give you a hint: It's not Wild Oats.
At least on the tax records, it's listed as something called ADG Properties, LLC, which I do believe is owned, at least in part, by Stan Amy, a founder of, and still affiliated with, New Seasons markets! Amy, a former Nature's bigwig, was a fiercely unhappy camper with the new Wild Oats management when it took over the old Nature's chain, and there was lots of bad blood when Amy and his partners left Wild Oats and started their own place. He is definitely getting the last laugh now, as the Wild Oats presence is about to be wiped off the Portland map.
It looks as though when Nature's sold its stores to Wild Oats, Wild Oats didn't buy the Fremont building -- it got only a lease on it. Just as it didn't get title to the building that housed the old Nature's (converted to Wild Oats) down on Division. And who owns the Division site? It's listed as being owned by something called ADG III LLC, with addresses that again point back to Amy.
A commenter on this blog last night theorized that the reason that the Wild Oats store on Division closed was that its lease was up and ADG was demanding a big rent increase. Yikes! Now that's an interesting tale that I don't remember hearing before. (I don't think daily newspapers like to dig too deeply into grocery store wars... for some reason...)
Anyway, what it all boils down to is that on the Fremont property, Whole Foods may, in effect, be dealing with New Seasons. A little internet sleuthing strengthens that impression. At Amy's address, there's listed a company called New Villages Group, Ltd., and on New Villages' website, New Seasons is shown as an "affiliated organization." Meanwhile, the old Nature's site at 24th and Fremont -- more recently a high-end garden store and the graveyard of several noble restaurant experiments -- is listed as being owned by something called ADG II LLC, which corroborates the old Nature's / new New Seasons real property connection.
If I've got this all straight, the plot has thickened considerably. Would Whole Foods want to deal with Amy over the Fremont building, and vice versa? Is there still a lease, and how much longer does it have to run? And if Whole Foods folds its Wild Oats cards there and closes, would New Seasons consider an outpost in that location? It certainly wouldn't have to worry about relations with the landlord, who from all appearances would be friendly indeed.
Stay tuned. I'm just praying that somebody will sell groceries in that place when this all shakes out.