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Earth Fare eyes Tampa Bay growth with plans to more than double its footprint

CEO Frank Scorpiniti chats about the grocer's new Wesley Chapel store and the chain's future in Florida.
CEO Frank Scorpiniti poses for a portrait at the Earth Fare grocery store in Seminole.
CEO Frank Scorpiniti poses for a portrait at the Earth Fare grocery store in Seminole.
Published Feb. 26, 2019

Tampa Bay's grocery scene is just about bursting, but that doesn't seem to worry Earth Fare CEO Frank Scorpiniti.

The head of the North Carolina chain says up to 10 Earth Fare locations could be on their way to the Tampa Bay area over the next two years. One that opened last week in Wesley Chapel is the third in the Tampa Bay area.

The 24,000-square-foot market at 5535 Sierra Town Center Blvd. is the first store to open in a new development that will feature stores such as HomeGoods and Five Below.

We caught up with Scorpiniti to chat about Earth Fare's growth and why he feels like it can stand out to Tampa Bay shoppers, even as more and more specialty chains expand their footprint in the market.

How does the new Tampa Bay location fit into Earth Fare's overall expansion plans?

This is our 51st store. We made a commitment four years ago, our real estate strategy going forward would be to build markets, not to build stores.

At the core of Earth Fare, we decided this is a health and wellness brand. We really are here for the furtherance of making it easier for our community, our customers, to live a healthier lifestyle.

I say that because in a lot of purported health and wellness grocery stores, there are a lot of clean items but adjacent, there are "dirty" items we won't sell.

So, to really change the health status of a community, you need to build more than one store. Hence, we're building markets. In the Tampa Bay area, we're committed to building 8 to 10 stores in the foreseeable future.

So, what made Wesley Chapel the right choice for Tampa Bay's third store?

When we first found this location, it was about three years ago. It was pretty early on; a lot of the homes hadn't even been built. We looked around the area and part of real estate selection is: Where are vibrant, growing communities where people are looking for solutions to a healthier lifestyle? That's how this was chosen. There's a lot of new entrants into the market. But as we look across the landscape, in North America as a whole, there's no other business doing what Earth Fare does.

Can you take us through what makes Earth Fare stand out among all the new grocers?

Yes, there's competition in food retail, but if you want a place that's clean, that you can feel secure about what you're bringing home, there's only one place left in America and it's Earth Fare.

There can be no added hormones, no antibiotics, no trans fats, no artificial colors. As you look across everything in the store, these chemicals don't exist. There are a few competitors in this area, we respect them, but they're not doing what we do. If you look at their products and read the labels, you will find hundreds of products with chemicals we won't allow.

That's why we say you can shop at Earth Fare blindfolded, knowing nothing you take home would be deleterious to your family's home. That's the differentiator.

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How does that reflect on prices, with preservatives often being what helps retailers keep costs low?

It's not easy. We have to operate with excellence every day and be efficient at what we do.

We have to be focused on selling products that have very compelling value.

At the same time, not everything at Earth Fare is meant to be the least-expensive product. We also want to help you embellish for special events: imported Italian cheeses, French wines, French cheese, filet mignon, choice beef that's locally raised, scratch-made organic bakery (items).

Those prices might be slightly more than the sliced chemical stuffs that you find called bread today in other retailers, but by making them from scratch every day from raw ingredients, we can still offer great prices. There's enough margin in that for us to be able to create a great working environment for our team members, a great customer experience and a value overall.

Contact Sara DiNatale at Follow @sara_dinatale.


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