Facing Shrinking Customer Population, Barstow Vons Grocery Store To Close

Like its eastward counterpart Needles, Barstow is seeing the number of its grocery stores diminish as a reflection of its shrinking population and prominence among San Bernardino County’s 24 cities.
A century ago, both Barstow and Needles stood as two of the county’s nine primary population centers, which then also included the county seat, San Bernardino; Redlands; Colton; Rialto; Ontario; Upland and Chino.
San Bernardino, Colton, Barstow and Needles were railroad towns. Indeed, Colton, Barstow and Needles had come into existence primarily because of the railroads that were built to connect Southern California with the rest of the world in the post-Civil War era of the 1870s and 1880s. Needles was the spot on the California side where the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway chose to build a bridge to extend its line spanning the Arizona Territory across the Colorado River and into the Golden State in 1883. At one point Needles was the fourth largest town population-wise in San Bernrdino County, and it was the seventh to incorporate in 1913.
Barstow was the premier desert community on the western side of the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County, and was of importance in the first half of the 20th Century because of its affiliation with the railroad and mining industries. It was the eighth city in the county to incorporated in 1947.
Beginning in the 1960s, both desert cities began a decline in relative prominence among the county’s municipalities and in time sustained a drawdown in population as well.
For some, a measure of a city’s prestige consists of its grocery stores. For all, a fathom of its livability are its grocery stores, their number and quality.
Basha’s was Needles’ last proper grocery store. Basha’s Needles location closed in May 2014. Taking up slack in town at that time was a 99 Cent Store. It, too, closed. The closest thing to a grocery store in Needles now is a Dollar General. Residents are obliged to cross the Colorado River into Arizona to shop for groceries. Needles now stands as the county’s smallest city populationwise, with fewer than 5,000 residents.
In Barstow, which is now the county’s fifth smallest municipality at just around 23,000 residents, word has come that the Vons supermarket at 1270 East Main Street will be closing on May 24. That store had been open since 1989. This will leave Barstow with a Stater Bros, a Food 4 Less, Lenwood Discount Market, Envision Foods and a recently expanded Wal-Mart offering groceries.
The City of Big Bear Lake, the county’s second smallest city at a population of 5,200, boasts three grocery stores: Stater Bros, Vons and Boulder Bay Market. In the case of Big Bear, merchants are encouraged to stay in part because of its proximity to the inappropriately named Big Bear City, which is not actually incorporated but rather an unincorporated county community. Despite that status, Big Bear City has a more substantial population than its neighbor, with some 13,000 residents.
Grand Terrace, the county’s third smallest city at a population of 12,400, has a full-fledged Stater Bros grocery store, the small Keromina Market Place, and the promise that Grocery Outlet will be opening in late spring.
In Yucca Valley, the county’s fourth smallest city, there is a surfeit of grocery stores, including two Stater Bros., Vons, Food 4 Less, Super One and Walmart Supercenter.
In Loma Linda, the county’s sixth smallest city at approximately 24,000 population, five stores selling groceries exist: a Stater Bros, SEA Market, Loma Linda Oriental Market, Indian Market, and the all-vegetarian Loma Linda Market.

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