S.J. Collins Enterprises

Developer explains delay in opening of Whole Foods in Fayetteville

After originally planning to be open this fall, Whole Foods last month confirmed that their new Fayetteville store won’t open until spring 2016.

This week, a developer behind the project offered some insight as to why.

Jeff Garrison, a partner at Georgia-based S.J. Collins Enterprises, said in an interview Wednesday that an increase in the scope of the project from a 35,000-square-foot small market store into a full-scale 40,000-square-foot store is partially responsible for the delay.

“After Whole Foods team members were in the area to locally source products and build relationships in the community, they determined there was more of a demand than expected and that the demographics aligned with their more successful stores,” Garrison said. “So they came to us after construction had begun, and expanded the project.”

Garrison said it’s not a typical situation for Whole Foods.

“It never happens where (Whole Foods) says to us, ‘This market gets it, and we need to expand,'” he said. “This is a tip of the cap to this market.”

According to Garrison, the expansion pushed the completion date into what Whole Foods considers a “blackout period” from November through February in which the company typically doesn’t open new locations. He said it’s difficult to schedule all the temporary training staff needed from other stores during the busy holiday season.

“All grocery-centered retail gets a huge rush through the holidays, and they can’t break away enough staff to open a store,” he said. “When Whole Foods expanded the store, we could’t keep the original schedule, so we all agreed that if we couldn’t open by Nov. 1, we’d have to delay the opening until spring.”

Garrison said he reached out to the Flyer in reaction to some online chatter that suggested the delay might be related to the overall financial health of Whole Foods, which recently announced it would lay off 1,500 workers over the next eight months. He also said he’d heard that some believed the store might not open at all.

It’s actually the opposite, Garrison said.

“Fayetteville went from being viewed (originally) as a small town, to being a perfect fit for the (Whole Foods) brand, so they actually grew the Fayetteville store to accommodate that,” he said.

The store is expected to employ around 120 people when it opens, which, Garrison said, should happen sometime in March 2016.