JOSEPH – It’s been a fixture in Joseph for more than 20 years, but the Market Place Fresh Foods never stops evolving. In fact, over the past couple of years, the owners have done considerable energy upgrades, said co-owner Marco Rennie.

In June 2018, Rennie and co-owner Dave Yount – who lives in Idaho – had all-new, energy-efficient lighting installed to replace the old fluorescent fixtures. Just last year, the owners replaced aging, inefficient coolers and refrigerator compressors with new ones.

“Just given that our margins are so thin, we need to save wherever we can,” Rennie said.

It was Energy Trust of Oregon that provided a financial incentive to do the projects. The “nonprofit organization committed to delivering clean, affordable energy to 1.6 million utility customers,” according to the trust’s website.

“It was a joy to work with Marco and help get his store up to speed,” said Brian Zoeller, an Energy Trust spokesman.

Rennie said the trust assessed the Market Place’s energy costs before the renovation and calculated what the store would save with the energy upgrades. Rather than grants, the cash incentives were offered in one rebate for each project. The rebate for the compressors was about $2,000 and about $1,100 for the lighting.

“What I’ve seen in both of those upgrades is about an average of 20% savings in energy costs,” he said.

Of course, that’s nothing to sneeze at. He didn’t have figures available, but it certainly makes a difference in the bottom line.

“Most grocery stores are not set up to be very energy efficient,” he said.

It’s not like you can switch off a light when you’re done using it like around home. Store lights are on the entire time it’s open so the new LED (light-emitting diode) lights help a lot.

Also, old, open “air-screen cooler cases” were replaced with cases that have doors on them, keeping the cold air in and thus are more energy efficient.

Rennie’s maintenance man Charles Vaughan said the coolers are kept at 38 degrees Fahrenheit.

The old refrigeration compressors on the roof of the building were replaced with six newer, more-efficient ones.

Although Vaughan wasn’t involved in the installation of them, he said he has had to learn to maintain and repair them, often a delicate job.

“You’ve got to be really careful how you adjust them,” he said. “Maybe 1/16th of a turn will change everything. I can turn this (cooler case) into a freezer if I go too far.”

Rennie noted that while the lighting upgrade went smoothly, the more recent refrigeration upgrades did not. He’d hoped to begin the project in February 2019, but planning and loan approval got delayed and they didn’t get started until June. The project wasn’t completed until August, with the store closed during the heart of the tourist season.

Rennie, who has lived in Enterprise about four years and owned the Market Place about a year and a half – along with another in La Grande – said he has plans for the store’s future. He said he’s hoping to add a section in the store.

“We want to offer the hot deli items customers have been asking for,” he said.

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