Pay-Less Supermarkets Inc. is celebrating its 55th birthday this year. Spurred on by renewed economic growth activity and population expansion Kathy C. Sgro newly named chairwoman of the board has a vision for the island’s largest chain of supermarkets.

Pay-Less customers in the island’s most populous village will soon be the beneficiaries of the company’s most ambitious remodeling project to date.

"We have set a start date for April 1 to begin the planned $1.3 million Dededo store project " Sgro said. "We are going to completely gut it out — a section at a time — and replace old equipment with new state-of-the-art chill boxes freezers shelving and new check-out registers. What will be exciting for our Dededo customers is a dedicated seafood department which is a brand new addition for the store."

Hidden from customers view will be a new roof. "It is common knowledge to our customers that the present roof has some leaks and that is not the look we want – we are a progressive company so we are totally changing everything from ceiling tiles to floor tiles " Sgro said.

The architectural and design work awarded to Laguana and Cristobal LLC is what Sgro called a "work in progress." Andrew T. Laguana principal told the Journal "It’s going to be a new bright fresh and airy look that will add to the ambience of the shopping experience."

Besides the remodeling of the interior the firm has also been tasked with designing a new façade that will blend in with the new parking lot which will extend from the building frontage to Marine Corps. Drive. "A redesigned air-conditioning system will be installed with canvas ducting like that which has been previously used in the Hagatna Paradise Fitness Center ” Laguana said.

The Dededo renovation will be followed by upgrades to the Agana Shopping Center.

Pay-Less also took advice from other grocery industry members in allocating space.

"Associated Grocers really knows and understands the supermarket industry and they have looked over our layout plans and given us their best opinion on the strategic placement of certain departments like meat and produce." Sgro said that if the current economic conditions "We have a lot of confidence in the economy of our island and we are making a much needed investment which we believe our customers are going to love."

"Pay-Less customers are a loyal group " Sgro said and those shopping at Pay-Less Oka store have seen what she called "A radical transformation" over the last three months. “We’re close to completing the first Phase of Oka Store renovations which should be finished by May 1st.”

"We changed out all the shelving put in new customer-friendly upright freezer cases and are finishing a face-lift that was long overdue " she said. "We are going for a new look — a look that goes beyond fresh paint and clean floors."

What Sgro is referring to is a revitalized approach to customer service.

"It is a great honor to take the reins from my father [Paul M. Calvo] who still remains president. Now its my responsibility to move this company into the new century with continued vision and positive direction " Sgro said.

Signs of this new guidance are appearing quickly.

Under construction at the Pay-Less Micronesia Mall store an entire corner is being renovated to showcase Pay-Less’ new "Health Smart" approach to eating and living.

In less than a year from its unveiling the number of Health Smart items has topped the 1 000 mark. "The success and popularity of Health Smart products has now led to the opening of a section in the Micronesia Mall Pay-Less which is dedicated exclusively to natural organic and health related products " Sgro said.

Sgro said that the Micronesia Mall Pay-Less store was the obvious place to have a one-stop area because of the generous amount of retail space that store offers.

"During the week of Jan. 17 a management and design team from our largest mainland supplier Associated Grocers paid us a visit and they said were very impressed at how proactive we had been by joining the natural and organic movement so quickly " Sgro said. "It is the newest and fastest-growing segment of the retail grocery business in answer to customer requests for a healthier selection of products."

While plans to have designated areas in each of Pay-Less’ seven stores are still on the drawing board Health Smart items will continue to by marked throughout aisles with a special Health Smart point of sale sign. MBJ