Whole Foods Market, a grocery chain specializing in natural and organic foods, said this week it plans to open a store in the Lake Norman area in 2014 or beyond. The news is creating a buzz among shoppers who already drive to the SouthPark store in Charlotte, or know Whole Foods from elsewhere. The big question is where?
Whole Foods said it already has signed a lease for the new store, but it did not say where. A spokeswoman late Friday sent an announcement about the store (see below), but said, “We are still finalizing some details before we can announce the exact site location.”
Besides Charlotte, the Austin, TX-based Whole Foods already has stores in WInston-Salem, Greensboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, Cary and Asheville, among other locations. The Lake Norman area’s demographics are likely a good fit for the chain.
Don Harrow, an economic developmemnt consultant for the town of Cornelius, said Friday of the news, “I know nothing I can talk about.”
He noted that Cornelius currently has two other grocery stores in the early development stages, a Harris Teeter in the Antiquity Cornelius neighborhood, and a Publix in a renovated Magnolia Plaza, off West Catawba Avenue. And there’s a lot of jockeying going on in the Lake Norman-area grocery store race.
Cornelius has a couple of potential sites: The former Bi-Lo on West Catawba Avenue that currently houses a Salvation Army store, and the former Lowe’s Foods store at Kenton Place, off West Catawba and Sam Furr Road.
Although the former Bi-Lo site is not currently on the market, it was built as a grocery and first what Whole Foods says it’s looking for. And Harrow said it would not be unusual for a business scouting the area to ask about it.
The former Lowe’s grocery in Kenton Place is vacant, and owned by Wilkesboro-based Venture Properties. Harris Teeter controls the lease, after acquiring area Lowe’s stores last year.
Harris Teeter initially said it would be put a new “innovative” store format on the site, but then later changed its plans. Experts think it’s unlikely Harris Teeter would sub-lease the site to another grocery, which would compete with its nearby stores across Sam Furr Road and at Jetton Village.
However, Matthews-based Harris Teeter is in the midst of being acquired, by The Kroger Co. of Cincinnati. Another possibility is that Kroger may take a different view of Harris Teeter’s vacant real estate holdings as it tries to squeeze savings out of the merger.
Wherever the Whole Foods ends up, it would mean tax revenues and jobs, not to mention a new option for local shoppers.
“I think it’s great that Whole Foods is coming in,” Harrow said Friday. “It’s further affirmation of the market demographics here. They’re a great quality chain, well thought of and well-regarded.
And I very much hope they come to Cornelius.”
WHOLE FOODS PLANS
Whole Foods executives said in a conference call Wednesday that they have signed 50 new store leases over the past year and now have 94 stores in the pipeline – a three-year supply of new stores. The company currently has 355 stores in 40 states, and co-CEO Walter Robb said executives demand for a whole lot more.
“We are dedicated to providing communities with fresh, healthy, natural and organic food and are on track to deliver our fourth consecutive year of increases in new store openings. We continue to gain market share and see demand for 1,000 Whole Foods Market stores in the U.S. alone,” he told analysts.
Whole Foods offered a list of markets where it recently has signed leases, and plans new stores “in 2014 and beyond.”
- Little Rock, AR
- Dublin, CA
- Los Angeles, CA
- Walnut Creek, CA
- Davie, FL
- Augusta, GA
- Lake Forest, IL
- East Lansing, MI
- St. Paul, MN
- Lake Norman, NC
- Columbus, OH
- Houston, TX
See the company’s third-quarter earnings announcement (PDF).
Whole Foods website, wholefoods.com
WHOLE FOODS ANNOUNCEMENT
Whole Foods issued the following announcement Friday, Aug. 2:
Whole Foods Market announces lease in Lake Norman area
Grocer plans to open second Charlotte metro location in 2014
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (July 31, 2013) – Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFM) announces it will open a second store in the Charlotte area near Lake Norman. The newest store in North Carolina for the natural and organic foods supermarket will occupy approximately 35,000 square feet of retail space. The new store is slated to open in late 2014.
Whole Foods Market’s presence in the Charlotte area includes the current location on Sharon Road in SouthPark, which opened in August 2012. This is the 12th store in North Carolina.
“The Lake Norman area is robust with shoppers looking for healthy food options,” said Marc Mastropaolo, Executive Coordinator of Whole Foods Market South region. “The Charlotte area has proven to be a great market, and many customers have been asking when we plan to open farther north. We look forward to opening our doors in this community.”
Whole Foods Market features a fresh and enticing selection of natural foods in their purest state, free of artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, and preservatives as well as hydrogenated fats. Whole Foods Market offers shoppers the highest quality, best-tasting and freshest foods in an inviting setting. Each store is unique and is designed to meet the needs of the neighborhoods where we live and work. Combine the great-tasting food with outstanding customer service and the result is a pleasantly atypical grocery shopping experience.