S.J. Collins Enterprises

Va. Beach Whole Foods could open by October

By Danielle Walker of Inside Business, The Hampton Roads Business Journal

Whole Foods Virginia Beach

The walls are up, and Whole Foods should start doing interior work by spring on the Virginia Beach store.

Plans for the region's first Whole Foods Market are ahead of schedule, according to the developer of the Virginia Beach project.

Jeff DeHart, a partner at S.J. Collins Enterprises in Georgia, said the natural and organic supermarket could open as early as October in the Hilltop area.

"The plan, right now, is for the Whole Foods to open between October and Dec. 1, in that 60-day window," DeHart said.

Initially, the store wasn't expected to open until sometime in 2013.

"Right now, construction is progressing at such a rate that I do believe that would happen," DeHart said of the updated timeline.

S.J. Collins is the developer owner, and has hired Falls Church-based L.F. Jennings as the general contractor on the project, he said.

The much anticipated Whole Foods is "well under construction," DeHart said, and the walls are up.

DeHart said the total cost of the project is $15 million.

The project has been funded by a construction loan S.J. Collins received, he said, and Whole Foods will pay for its own interior construction of the store.

Whole Foods did not return a call by press time inquiring about the store's expected opening date.

Last July, the city announced that the 42,000-square-foot Whole Foods was coming to the Hilltop area of the Beach. The store will be in the former location of a Saturn car dealership at 1800 Laskin Road.

To accommodate parking, S. J. Collins purchased a 3-acre parcel of land from the city.

"By this spring, the parking lot and the exterior lighting for the parking lot will be done," DeHart said. "The roof will be up and Whole Foods will start doing their interior work.

"When someone drives by this spring, it will look like a Whole Foods," DeHart said, although "it just won't be operational yet."

S.J. Collins developed the Whole Foods in Charlottesville at 1797 Hydraulic Road.

"Every store they do tries to reflect the architecture of the community," he said. "We developed the Whole Foods in Charlottesville, and Whole Foods used a portion of the U.Va. basketball floor to construct part of the flooring in one of the aisles. They also went around Charlottesville and bought parts of old barns to decorate the interior of the store."

DeHart said they usually don't know what the community-specific design will be until closer to the store's opening, but that "it's going to be fun to see what they decide in Virginia Beach."

According to a January release from L.F. Jennings, the Virginia Beach Whole Foods store was designed by Phillips Partnership in Atlanta, with engineering services provided by Bohler Engineering, a firm headquartered in New Jersey.

Whole Foods, which was founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, now has more than 300 stores throughout the U.S., U.K. and Canada.