News

Red October

BY Katherine Boccaccio

As I watched the Southern California wildfire coverage unfold in the national news late in October, I was reminded of another late October when the wildfire experience was much closer to home.

It was 2003, and I was at the office when I received word that my south Denver neighborhood was being evacuated. Fierce winds had fanned a handful of devastating blazes along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains—and those blazes were burning a path right to the Fields’ front door. The next several hours were a panicked blur of locating and securing children, grabbing and packing valuables, calming dogs, and finding shelter.

Refuge was a familiar haven—a Drury Inn & Suites that we’d come to call home a year earlier during our house-hunting excursions to Denver. A call ahead from the car secured us a suite—free of charge, for as long as we needed it, compliments of the hotel manager.

Although our story ended quickly and happily—we returned home late the next day to an untouched home—the recent San Diego-area fires sparked memories of panic and displacement. And they rekindled my deep appreciation for a Denver hotel manager who did everything he could to help hundreds of frightened people and pets.

Mall owners received similar kudos from San Diego-area residents and rescue workers. As tens of thousands of Southern Californians were forced from their homes, developers such as Vestar and Westfield stepped up to the plate.

Phoenix-based Vestar Development Group owns Rancho San Diego Towne Center, a 400,000-sq.-ft. shopping center right in the heat of the action. Evacuated residents gravitated to the center’s parking lot and set up camp, some in RVs, many hauling household pets and salvaged belongings. Although the center wasn’t officially declared a shelter, Vestar let them stay.

Mall owner Westfield Group, which operates seven malls around San Diego, performed similarly for displaced people and animals. When its North County Mall, in Escondido, was closed by mandatory evacuation order, Westfield opened the parking lots to emergency responders for use as a staging area—and to evacuees in their RVs and campers. The American Red Cross and FEMA shared asphalt space with horses and other livestock (see photo in the “News” section on this page).

On Oct. 23, Westfield’s president of U.S. operations Ken Wong announced a $100,000 donation to the American Red Cross of San Diego. And the company arranged for delivery of 5,000 bottles of water to evacuees directed to Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. “We are part of this community and will do whatever we can to help,” he said. “We are…working with local law enforcement, public-safety and emergency-service organizations to serve as a resource—providing staging areas for first responders at several of our centers.”

Westfield Plaza Camino Real, in Carlsbad, served as an evacuation center, as well as a staging area for emergency responders including FEMA. Westfield Parkway in El Cajon sheltered hundreds of livestock.

Just like Denver’s Drury Inn, Westfield and Vestar stepped in to offer help without hesitation—an apt prelude to this 2007 season of giving.

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CompUSA may get a new look

BY CSA STAFF

ADDISON, Tx. After opening a new format store last month, CompUSA may be changing the format of its other stores, depending on customer demand and product interest.

According to reports, the elements found in the prototype store, located in Texas, will be incorporated into other CompUSA locations across the United States.

The nearly 7,700 square-ft. relocation site includes an Apple shop featuring Mac computers, iPods and Apple accessories, and a full-length LCD TV wall.

Additional expansions include extended gaming, which includes an entire wall devoted to the Nintendo Wii, PlayStation3 and Xbox 360 gaming platforms, plus a PC gaming setup to test equipment and play new titles.

While businesses can get their share of support with a specialized services section, all consumers can visit the store’s redesigned IT support area.

“This new store aligns CompUSA’s vision to better serve its three core customers, the technology enthusiast, educated professional and small and medium businesses,” said Gabriela Villalobos, the retailer’s sales and operations evp.

CompUSA announced in April that it would narrow its focus to three core customer groups rather than try to serve a mass audience.

The move was part of a comprehensive restructuring, initiated last February, that included an overhaul of senior management and the closure of half its store base as the privately held chain looked to improve sales and profitability.

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Walgreens withdraws from CVS provider plans

BY CSA STAFF

DEERFIELD, Ill. After many months of talks over low and below-market payment rates by CVS Caremark for four prescription plans, Walgreens has withdrawn as a pharmacy provider from the plans.

Patients affected include members of prescription benefit plans managed by CVS Caremark for ArcelorMittal, Johnson Controls, Progressive Casualty Insurance and Wisconsin Education Association Trust.

Most of the affected members live in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Trent Taylor, president of Walgreens Health Services, the managed care division of Walgreens, released the following statement:

“This is not where we wanted negotiations to lead,” he said. “We’re sorry that our pharmacy patients and CVS Caremark’s clients are caught in the middle, and we’ll do all we can to ensure a smooth transition for our patients to another pharmacy. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to work on resolving this issue with CVS Caremark.

“Leaving a benefits plan is an extraordinary step for us, but it demonstrates how extraordinarily low our payments were from CVS Caremark. We can’t continue accepting reimbursement rates that are drastically below market, while offering patients needed special services such as 24-hour pharmacy access and drive-thru pharmacies.”

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