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Whole Foods to bring another organic alternative to Carrollwood, in Tampa's second store

CARROLLWOOD — Five years after opening its first Tampa Bay store, Whole Foods Market is making plans for its second, this time in Carrollwood.

The store is expected to open this fall or winter on Northdale Boulevard, a block west of N Dale Mabry Highway. The 6-acre site formerly housed a JCPenney credit card processing center.

The location is a short walk from a Sweetbay supermarket and a quick drive from competitors Nutrition Smart and Abby's Health and Nutrition, both of which sit on N Dale Mabry and sell organic produce.

Abby Sayler, who opened her combined health/nutrition shop and cafe in Carrollwood 12 years ago, said Whole Foods is likely targeting mainstream consumers, taking on supermarkets like Sweetbay and Publix as organic and locally grown foods gain floor space in grocery chains.

A 2011 study by the Organic Trade Association showed organic food sales outpaced nonorganic food in annual growth. Organic sales rose 8 percent last year compared with a less than 1 percent gain for total food sales. The study said 78 percent of U.S. families purchased organic foods at least occasionally last year, up 5 percentage points from 2009.

Whole Foods has a store at 1548 N Dale Mabry near Interstate 275, about 10 miles south of Carrollwood.

Customer demand led Whole Foods to expand to Carrollwood, said Oriane Lluch, a spokeswoman for the store.

"When we're looking for a new location, we always start with where our current customers are coming from," Lluch said.

The company is staying tight-lipped about exactly what to expect once the 36,000-square-foot market opens. Whole Foods will try to build relationships with bay area farmers, so some selections will be local produce, according to Lluch.

Weingarten Realty, an investment group based in Houston, purchased the site in September for $2.75 million and will lease the building to Whole Foods.

Sayler, of Abby's Health, said she's not worried about the competition.

"They're not as specialized as we are," she said. "They try to appeal to a mass market; not everything they sell is organic. We're a little different. It will be interesting to see how it impacts our store."

Nutrition Smart store manager Rudy Rodriguez said the market in Carrollwood for natural and locally grown food has expanded with young professionals and health-conscious parents, but Whole Foods might have overestimated the area's appetite for organic food.

"Is it big enough to support a store of that size? That remains to be seen," he said.

Nonetheless, the ongoing construction is generating buzz. Workers started to demolish the processing center a couple of months ago. Concrete block walls for the new store are now taking shape.

Across Northdale Boulevard at the children's clothing boutique Once Upon a Child, owner Barbara Gocinski said she has heard from several customers excited about the prospect of a Whole Foods nearby. "There are a lot of conscientious moms in this area looking for healthy food," she said.

A few doors down at the Northdale Barber Shop, owner Willie Tidewell made a similar observation.

"The Nutrition Smart and the Abby's have been there a long time. There are a lot of working people now, people with children, who are getting more health-conscious," he said. "I could see a lot of people going there."

Rich Shopes can be reached at [email protected]

Whole Foods to bring another organic alternative to Carrollwood, in Tampa's second store 02/16/12 [Last modified: Thursday, February 16, 2012 3:30am]
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