When the Hill City’s newest grocery store opens its doors this Wednesday, it will join a Lynchburg grocery marketplace that hasn’t added a new player for several years but has seen significant changes in terms of new construction and renovations.
Fresh Market, based in North Carolina, bills itself as a "specialty grocery retailer focused on providing high-quality products in a unique and inviting atmosphere with a high level of customer service.”
Although the gourmet supermarket is frequently compared to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, grocery analyst Phil Lempert said the store is really a hybrid of two different models.
“What Fresh Market has done, is they’ve taken the concept of Whole Foods and married it to the concept of a Kroger, if you would,” Lempert said.
That means Fresh Market carries fresher products in a more “inviting" and "fun” atmosphere, he explained, similar to upscale grocers. But prices are more in line with traditional supermarkets, allowing consumers to take advantage of the store for everyday needs, not just upscale shopping trips.
“Fresh Market is not about ‘fancy,’” he said. “Fresh Market is about ‘fresh.’”
Meanwhile, Lempert said, other grocery stores, including those in the Lynchburg market, are responding to consumer demand for more fresh produce and a more appealing shopping experience.
“That [hybrid] model is really the future direction that every supermarket is going to follow,” Lempert said.
Kroger’s newest location on U.S 221. in Forest, which opened in 2010, boasts a sushi bar, international food section, wine area, gourmet cheese and a deli bistro.
Last December, the company announced an 11-month, $12.5-million expansion of its Timberlake Road location, where it plans to add a new cheese and antipasto bar, fresh sushi, a chef bistro and hot and cold bar offerings. The Timberlake store also will be home to a Starbucks and will have wireless Internet access available.
Nationally, Food Lion is undergoing a major transformation as well, closing hundreds of stores while upgrading others. Although Food Lions in Forest, Lynchburg and Appomattox have closed in the last three years, 10 Lynchburg-area stores received extensive renovations and improvements in 2011, and the chain made a handful of strategic investments last year, according to spokeswoman Christy Phillips-Brown.
According to a release from the company, the new Lynchburg Fresh Market will house over 24,600 square feet of “culinary delights,” according to a release from the company, including a bakery, full-service meat counter, wide selection of ready-to-serve entrees, fresh seafood, more than 200 imported and domestic cheeses and a produce department stocked with more than 400 items.
“Our customers enjoy shopping in an environment that appeals to all the senses,” Fresh Market president and chief executive officer Craig Carlock said in a release, citing the smell of fresh coffee and bread, along with the sounds of classical music and the softly lit environment as factors that pull customers in to the Fresh Market “experience.”
Lempert said that full “experience” is the main goal of Fresh Market and the stores that are emulating its design.
For example, he said, the large, inviting produce department “sets the stage for the rest of the shopping trip ... It puts you in a better mood.”
Contact Eleanor Kennedy at (434) 385-5524 or email@example.com.