Fresh Market gets off to a strong start


Published: Saturday, January 6, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 6, 2007 at 12:02 a.m.

Between The Fresh Market's grand-opening and the holidays, manager Debbie Smart described the store's first month as crazy, with crowds barely able to move or find parking spaces.

Smart, who came from a Tallahassee Fresh Market, said the store at 4120 NW 16th Blvd. had the most profitable opening the company has ever had. The North Carolina-based gourmet market has 80 stores.

"The consumer base here was just craving to have a market like this," she said. "I've had customers say we've waited a year for you to open."

After the initial rush, the crowds are gone, but the business has a steady flow of customers that starts picking up around lunch time, Smart said. She's starting to recognize regular customers.

The Fresh Market emphasizes freshness and quality, she said. "A lot of bigger retailers have lost the concept of quality."

The big draw, she said, is the deli, with freshly made salads, sandwiches, rotisserie meats, sushi, their own label of lunch meats, soups, pizzas, an olive bar and a variety of cheeses.

The store also has a bakery, fresh flowers, fresh produce, desserts, meats cut every day, coffee beans and specialty groceries.

Carolyn Hebert of Archer strolled through the spice aisle with a book of recipes open in her cart. "They have some natural things in my recipes that I'm trying," she said. "This is good, healthy stuff. That's what I'm getting — healthy stuff to start a new year."

She said The Fresh Market will complement what she buys at the Publix in Jonesville.

"I love Publix, but they don't have all the things that I need," she said.

While trying a sample of deli chicken salad, Angela Garmon of Gainesville said that she likes the prepared meals the store makes and the organic foods.

Retailers in the same plaza say they have seen new faces since the store opened.

"After three years, it's nice to have an anchor store back in our shopping area bringing the foot traffic back in," said Scott Richardson, co-owner of Northwest Seafood. "It's just another reason to draw the consumers out to come check out the area that are not normally in the area."

The Fresh Market took most of the space of the former Kash n' Karry supermarket.

Steve Smith, assistant manager at Dorn's Liquors, said the initial parking problem hurt business, but that the new store will help in the long run.

"It's nice to have a big neighbor that's going to draw them in," he said.

The Fresh Market is about 23,000 square feet, leaving a 6,000-square-foot vacancy from the Kash n' Karry space, according to real estate broker Anne Metz of Metz & Co. Inc.

Metz said she has had "tons of inquiries," but none that will work because of the size. The type of high-end specialty boutiques appropriate for the area need much less space.

"The space doesn't lend itself very well to splitting," she said.

She said she is optimistic, however, envisioning a bookstore or home accessories store taking the space.

Anthony Clark can be reached at anthony.clark@gvillesun.com or (352) 374-5094.

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