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Quick change: QFC out, Market in at Carnation

Staff and owners of the new Carnation Market pictured from left are: front,  employees Dana Smith and Shellie Klaiber; middle, owners Sean Skiles and Ali Hayton; back, Michelle Chapman and store manager Jim Baugher.  - Carol Ladwig / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Staff and owners of the new Carnation Market pictured from left are: front, employees Dana Smith and Shellie Klaiber; middle, owners Sean Skiles and Ali Hayton; back, Michelle Chapman and store manager Jim Baugher.
— image credit: Carol Ladwig / Snoqualmie Valley Record

When Carnation residents found out last week that their only grocery store, the Carnation QFC, would close its doors March 31, they reacted pretty much in the same way.

Ronda Sjavik called a friend with the news, saying "I knew you'd be in mourning with me, so I had to tell you what happened!"

"That's bad!" said another woman, abruptly setting the plant she'd been examining into her cart on the store's last day.

To everyone's relief, the store was closed only overnight, and re-opened Friday morning as the Carnation Market. The new owners, Sean Skiles and Ali Hayton, say they are excited to be in the city.

"We like Carnation," said Skiles who, with his sister Hayton, owns several stores in the area, all in small towns.

The second part of the community reaction was concern for the 32 QFC employees at the store. All of them were offered positions at the Carnation Market, Skiles said, but many long-time QFC employees decided to stay with the company, and were given their choice of positions in other locations.

Eric Miller, a QFC spokesman said "Our human resources department worked with every single person to make sure there is a place for them in the organization."

Michelle Chapman, a deli staffer who's staying in Carnation, had several reasons for staying, and the "delightful" new owners had a lot to do with it. "For a small town, having a family-run business is a good thing," she said. "They want to be part of the community."

When the store closed at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 31, Skiles and staff immediately came in and worked through the night to make the change-over. Although they assumed the store's existing inventory, they brought in all-new computer and cash register systems, and re-branded everything as the Carnation Market. The market is supplied by Unified Grocers under the Independent Grocers Alliance logo.

With only a week's notice for most employees and the community, the change seemed sudden. However, it had been taking shape for some time.

"Their lease was up, so they were going to leave, no matter what, and the store would have been empty," said Skiles, who had been considering Carnation for his next store site.

Miller said the company debated on the decision to close the store for some time, and "our most important thing was that the community would not be left without a grocery store."

Skiles said the community shouldn't have seen any significant ripples from the transition to Carnation Market, but in the near future, he planned to survey the community about the types of products they want in their store. He also planned to work with local farmers to sell their products, and to include the store in more community events, including opening up the parking lot to events.

The Carnation Market is open daily from 5 a.m. to midnight.

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