Conscientious shoppers in Clearwater will have a new place to find cage-free eggs, organic chia seeds and locally sourced honey.
Whole Foods Market plans to open a 37,000-square-foot grocery store at the Westfield Countryside Mall off U.S. 19.
Construction is set to begin this summer, and city officials expect the store to open for business in early 2014.
The specialty chain’s focus on all-natural, locally sourced foods has proven popular in Tampa with a busy location off Interstate 275 on North Dale Mabry Highway and a second store that opened last fall in Carrollwood.
“They’re a unique kind of niche in the market I think commonly considered to be a higher-end store,” said Michael Delk, Clearwater’s planning and development director. “They look for good demographics in terms of levels of income to support their business model.”
The city is already home to other high-end niche grocers, including a Fresh Market located a mile south of the Countryside Mall in the Cypress Point shopping center, and Nature’s Food Patch, a local organic grocer near downtown.
Delk attributes Whole Foods’ interest in Clearwater to the improvements at the Countryside Mall in recent years that have drawn several popular restaurants to the shopping center, such as P.F. Chang’s China Bistro and Red Robin Gourmet Burgers.
“They’ve just invested a lot in really establishing, repositioning Countryside Mall as a major regional destination,” Delk said.
The new Whole Foods will move in to a ground-floor space currently occupied by Sears, which will move to a smaller space on the second level.
Whole Foods, based in Austin, Texas, chain has more than 340 stores across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Rumors circulated last fall that Whole Foods was considering a downtown St. Petersburg location owned by Synovus Bank on Third Avenue North, though city officials never saw any official plans.
Economic development officials courted a Fresh Market that opened in 2009 on Fourth Street North, but there’s room for another specialty grocer downtown, they say.
“We’re always trying to recruit high-end retailers, and certainly Trader Joes or Whole Foods would fall in line with that,” said Rick Smith, the city’s downtown and community redevelopment coordinator.
Many of new apartments going up downtown will run in the $1,200 to $1,400 a month range, offering a good customer base for a store such as Whole Foods, he said.
“I think once we start putting in those new apartment complexes, we’ll see a lot more interest,” Smith said. “We are talking about 1,000 units nearly scattered throughout downtown.”