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Adios to Fresh & Easy in Laguna Niguel?

The British-based grocery chain prepares to pull the plug on its 199 stores, but the Laguna Niguel store is not leaving anytime soon, says a company spokesman.

Fresh & Easy stores across Southern California will soon be closed or sold, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

However, before you toss out your Fresh & Easy canvas grocery bag, the local store in Laguna Niguel is not going anywhere, at least any time soon, says a Fresh & Easy spokesman.

"It's business as usual," said Brendan Wonnecutt when asked about the Laguna Niguel store specifically. “Our focus remains on our people and our customers. It is business as usual in our stores and we look forward to bringing our neighbors the same delicious, wholesome and affordable food they have come to expect from Fresh & Easy.”

The store opened in February in the former Blockbuster at the corner of Golden Lantern and Crown Valley Parkway. Prior to opening, a number of tenants at the Laguna Niguel Grove shopping plaza complained about construction issues and parking places being hogged by construction workers of the then-being built grocery store.

Owned by Britain's Tesco, the El Segundo-based grocery chain never quite caught on with American consumers.

Analysts said the recession was partly to blame -- the chain debuted in California, Nevada and Arizona in 2007, just as the economy was tanking. But, ultimately, consumers didn't seem to relate to the concept.

"Though it attracted a small group of loyalists, Fresh & Easy largely failed to capture the imagination of American consumers who proved unaccustomed to British-style ready meals, self-service cash registers and unfamiliar store layouts," the Journal said.

Tesco's CEO told the paper: "It's likely, but not certain, that our presence in America will come to an end."

-- Patch editor Debbie L. Sklar contributed to this report.

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