Rite-Aid store site changes hands

Posted: Sunday, March 09, 2003

The wide open space in the Peninsula Center Mall, formerly known as Rite-Aid, has new owners as of last week.

A former Kenai businessman and his family business in Anchorage combined with a California company to take over the space with the hopes of returning it to a viable business.

"We think it's ground zero in Soldotna," said Henry Penney, general manager and associate broker for Penco Properties in Anchorage. "We're going to start marketing it right away. I think we'll be able to find one or more tenants for the space in relatively short order."

Penney and his father, Penco principal owner Bob Penney of Anchorage, teamed with Venture II Co. LLC of California in a deal the younger Penney said had been in the works since last August. Bob Penney was not available for comment.

"We were supposed to close at the end of the year," Penney said. "But some things got held up."

The space, located between the Soldotna Safeway grocery store and the mall area, has been vacant since 1998 when Rite-Aid pulled out. Prior to Rite-Aid, the property had hosted retailers Payless Drug Store and Pay N Save.

Penney would not reveal how much his group paid for the space, but said the prior owners made selling the property difficult for real estate broker Don McKay, of McKay Investment in Soldotna.

Officials at Rite-Aid declined comment on the sale Friday.

"Part of the problem Don had to deal with was Rite-Aid didn't want to spend any money to make the place presentable," he said. "That makes it tough to show to potential buyers."

To that effect, the building was left needing work done on the flooring and walls and with some of the store shelving still sitting inside. Penco has contracted Merkes Builders Unlimited in Soldotna to begin work to prepare the space for one or more tenants to move in.

Penney said at first glance, he anticipated repairs and remodeling would cost around $100,000.

"Once we're finished with it, it'll be as good as when it was new," he said.

He said his group would look toward marketing the space to retailers but didn't rule out any possibilities for a new tenant.

But why take the risk of acquiring a building that sat vacant for so long?

"I lived down there for six years in Kenai," Penney said of his stint as Kenai branch manager for National Bank of Alaska (now Wells Fargo) and a Kenai Chamber of Commerce board member. "Dad's had a place down there for at least 20 years. We like the area and have a lot of faith in it."

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