S.J. Collins Enterprises

Akron Whole Foods taking shape; West Point Marketplace adds pet store and high-tech gym

Jubilation and mourning erupted online last week after someone posted a site plan for Akron’s first Whole Foods on Facebook.

The architectural drawing of West Point Marketplace shows only a triangle of green where the Circle K sits at the corner of West Market Street and North Hawkins Avenue.

Some celebrated, hoping the busy gas station would be bulldozed and replaced by grass and trees. Others grieved, wondering where they’d fill up their tanks.

But Circle K isn’t going anywhere.

The architects who drew up the site plans were only paid to configure West Point Marketplace, said Adele Dorfner Roth, Akron’s deputy planning director for economic development.

Anything else, including Circle K, was just shaded green.

There is news, however, about the development.

Akron’s Whole Foods — scheduled to open between April and June of 2017 — will have a modern exterior with a bit of a throwback vibe. And the shops that make up the larger West Point Marketplace are starting to come together, according to developer S.J. Collins Enterprises of Fairburn, Ga.

PetPeople, a Columbus-based, family-owned chain that sells natural pet foods, treats, and supplies, was the first business to sign a retail lease in the development, said Jeff Garrison, a partner in S.J. Collins.

It will occupy about 4,200 square feet in a building behind Circle K.

Orange Theory, a fitness center, will take up a separate 2,800-square-foot space, according to information provided to the city of Akron.

The national high-tech fitness chain says its program — which monitors heart rates and displays them on huge screens for everyone to see — is aimed at everyone from athletes to couch potatoes. Classes are an interval mix of cardio machines, weights and exercise. No two classes, its trainers often say, are alike.

Expect businesses such as fast-casual restaurants, hair salons and other services in the remaining space, Garrison said.

The retail operations around a Whole Foods, he said, cater to Whole Foods’ customers — women who often make two or three trips to Whole Foods a week and stop in at the surrounding businesses for coffee or to work out or to get their hair done.

There’s also retail space for rent inside Whole Foods, a new concept built into some of its newer stores.

Sometimes it’s operated by a local restaurant. But it could also be leased by someone with expanded coffee offerings, jewelry or body lotions.

“We try to match the needs, the wants of the community,” he said.

Whatever is in the inner, leased Whole Foods space, the organic grocer will offer its own juice bar, fresh-order pizza, hot and cold food bars and sushi, he said. Beer on tap is a possibility, but it’s complicated by state and local issues at every Whole Foods, Garrison said.

Even though West Point Marketplace is more than a year from opening, Garrison said Whole Foods will be making itself known in the area soon.

Whenever a new Whole Foods prepares to open, he said, the company hires a team leader for the store a year early and sends that person to live in the Whole Foods community to do a “deep dive” into what makes the area unique.

The team leader meets with local vendors, charitable organizations and schools, hoping to design the store’s interiors to reflect the community.

The team leader also looks for local providers and vendors of everything from carrots to granola that meet Whole Foods’ standards for organics or food containing no genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Garrison said.

As for confusion caused by the West Point Marketplace plans that popped up on Facebook last week, the other outstanding mystery were the words “traffic calming tabletops” printed atop the green space where the Circle K is located.

That’s just another way to say speed bump — the extra-wide kind of speed bumps with a flat tops, planners said.

And they won’t be at the Circle K.

The plans show three speed bumps along the main drive slicing through West Point Marketplace off of West Market Street.

The goal is to slow traffic along the main corridor, so a Whole Foods shopper can walk safely across the parking lot to buy grain-free dog food or to work up a sweat at the other businesses in the development without getting run over.

Staff writer Katie Byard contributed to this report. Amanda Garrett can be reached at 330-996-3725 or agarrett@thebeaconjournal.com.