Whole Foods to Change Customer Market

Whole Foods to Change Customer Market

A Whole Foods Market just approved on University Parkway will be the latest significant commercial development to transform the corridor into a high-spending, high-activity space. Officials at S.J. Collins Enterprises anticipate the grocery, being built at the intersection with Honore Avenue, will create an increase in pedestrian activity and attract a mix of young professionals and health-focused families.

“It will create what I call a high-energy lifestyle center,” said Jeff Garrison, S.J. Collins partner. The developer has already announced Zoës Kitchen, a fast casual Mediterranean restaurant chain, will also be in the same complex as Whole Foods. Depending how space is leased, four to five other businesses could also move in, and Garrison said about 20 other restaurants and boutique retail companies have expressed interest. Wawa, a gas station/cafe chain, will also build a location there.

The focus from a commercial point of view will be customers in search of convenience. At Whole Foods, the No. 1 customer will be the “40-year-old mother of two,” someone expected to swing by three times a week to buy a basket costing $40-$45. “People want to be close to a Whole Foods because the primary demographic is the primary spender of all disposable income,” Garrison said.

But there will also be a number of residents and professionals turning to Whole Foods as a destination for fast and affordable lunches. Garrison notes the 40,000-square-foot grocery will be about a quarter again larger than the Whole Foods already in operation in Downtown Sarasota. “In markets like New York, Whole Foods is a mainstay of the millennial busy lifestyle," he said. “When office workers are looking for a place to eat, rather than trying to fit a large group into a restaurant, they know they can just go grab a table at Whole Foods.”

The approval of the development has drawn criticism, particularly because it will be built on land designated as wetlands. Garrison noted, though, that the environmental impact will be mitigated by the purchase of land in a preserve that will boost the Manatee River Basin. “In the long term, is this a net positive? The answer is a resounding yes,” he said.

Ground will break on the Whole Foods project in March, with an estimated completion date in summer 2017.