Retailers

Whole Foods Resuming Rollout Pace as Newtown Square Opens

Long-awaited grand opening could signal a building boom
Photograph courtesy of Whole Foods Market

It’s been about five years in the making, but the Whole Foods Market in Newtown Square, Pa., is finally open for business. And it could be the start of something more.

The 51,000-square-foot store, in the Ellis Preserve development, opened Jan. 18, according to the Austin, Texas-based retailer, now owned by Amazon. The opening comes some four years after the company signed a lease for the property, and about 18 months since the building appeared to be complete.

Once one of the busiest builders in the grocery business, Whole Foods put its rapid rollout on pause as it encountered a downturn in its business prior to its acquisition by Amazon in summer 2017, and instead focused on its low-cost 365 format. More recently Whole Foods has said it would retire 365 amid indications its new parent is greenlighting growth of its namesake banner again.

“In the two years prior to the merger, because of competitive pressures and because of a slowdown in our comparable store sales, we slowed our growth,” Jim Sud, executive VP of growth and business development for Whole Foods, was quoted as saying at a recent speaking event in Texas covered by D Magazine. “And at one time, I think we had 93 stores in development, and we stopped signing leases and stopped opening stores. But when Amazon acquired us, they sort of said, ‘You’re on. Start growing again.’”

Other recent reports have said Whole Foods was eyeing new sites in Western states and considering shuttered Sears stores for new locations. At least some stores planned as 365 will open instead under the Whole Foods banner.

“We are thrilled to join the Newtown Square community with the opening of our new Whole Foods Market,” said John Frei, team leader of the new store, said in a news release. “We look forward to welcoming customers into our store and serving them at the Darby Creek Cafe, a unique dining venue where customers can have a quick meal, leisurely dine in our outdoor seating area, or watch a game on one of our TVs while enjoying a beverage.”

Ellis Preserve is a mixed-use project including corporate tenants, a hotel, residences and The Shops at Ellis Preserve, a shopping center that opened in 2016 and had been awaiting its anchor tenant ever since. According to developer Equus Capital Partners, the site is within reach of the bedroom communities along the Main Line, Philadelphia’s wealthiest suburbs.

Whole Foods said the new store offers a selection of items from local and regional suppliers, such as sauces from Vesper Bros. Foods, Uncle Jerry’s Pretzels, and locally-grown produce from Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, The Common Market, and Bux-Mont Hydroponics.

Additional features include 155 bulk bins, service meat, deli, seafood and bakery departments, and hot and cold food bars.

Dining options also include an in-store Allegro coffee bar and the Darby Creek Cafe, an in-store, fast-casual eatery with a “pub-inspired” food menu, dishes made in a wood-fired oven, and selections of local spirits, sherry-based cocktails, and cold-brew coffee, juices and local beers on tap. The cafe will have three TVs and offer outdoor seating during the summer months.

 The store employs about 160 workers. To celebrate the opening, Whole Foods said it would dedicate 5% of its net sales Jan. 24 to Marple Newtown School District's Black and Orange Fund charity.

Whole Foods Market has 13 additional stores in the greater Philadelphia area. Its food retail neighbors in Newtown Square include an Albertsons Cos.-owned Acme Market on the opposite corner of West Chester Pike and state Route 252, and two locations of Ahold Delhaize’s Giant Food Stores.

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