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Earth Fare, the newest grocery store to hit Tampa Bay, seeks a healthy crowd

Employees get the new Earth Fare grocery store set up in Seminole on Monday. The new grocery store is set to open on Wednesday in Seminole City Center. EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times

Employees get the new Earth Fare grocery store set up in Seminole on Monday. The new grocery store is set to open on Wednesday in Seminole City Center. EVE EDELHEIT | Times
Published Sep. 27, 2016

SEMINOLE — Frank Scorpiniti doesn't like to think of Earth Fare as a grocery store.

Instead, he calls it a "healthcare company that happens to sell groceries."

Earth Fare, an Asheville, N.C.-based organic supermarket chain, is opening its first store in the Tampa Bay area in Seminole at 7774 113th Street N., on Wednesday. It will be the fourth store to open in Florida, though the company plans to expand in Tampa Bay and the rest of the state next year.

Unlike its other boutique competitors that are also relatively new to Florida, like Trader's Joes, The Fresh Market and Lucky's Market, Earth Fare stands out because of its strict policy on the kinds of food its stores sell. On the walls inside the 24,000-square-foot bright and colorful store and even carved into the cart holding areas in the parking lot, Earth Fare proudly boasts its store philosophy. The grocer doesn't sell any food that has added hormones, artificial fats or trans fats, bleached or bromated flour, antibiotics, high fructose corn syrup or artificial preservatives or colors.

"If the label reads like something from NASA, then you won't find it here," said Scorpiniti, CEO of Earth Fare.

Also unlike other specialty organic grocery chains, Earth Fare aims to be customers' one and only grocery store.

"I don't like us to be called a specialty grocer," Scorpiniti said. "Customers can do their full grocery shopping trip here unlike at some of our competitors. We're in the business of health, so we focus on everything a family needs for food and wellness. Not these extraneous businesses."

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You won't find a pharmacy inside the new Earth Fare in Seminole City Center. But you will find the Heirloom Juice Bar, where customers can get fresh pressed cold juices, smoothies and coffees every day. Prices range from $4.99 to $6.99. It's a new feature inside Earth Fare stores and the first to open in a store in Florida.

Earth Fare will employ 115 people in the Seminole store. Those employees make 34 freshly prepared meals every day, from vegetarian options to salmon dishes, which sell from $3.99 to $8.99. Organic bread is baked every day. A french baguette starts at $1.49. A pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast runs $3.99 a pound.

The meat and seafood department run a variety of top cuts of meat and fish, and offers some exotic choices. A pound of bison meat costs $10.99 a pound and a leg of lamb runs $7.99. There's hickory smoked, dry rubbed bacon too, for $7.99 a pound.

An expansive bulk dry goods section offers an array of organic grains, granola nuts, seeds, flour and candy. There's even a liquid bulk section for warmed extra virgin olive oil ($11.99 a pound) and maple syrup ($7.99 a pound.)

The colorful produce section sits at the front of the store. More than 75 percent of the store's fruits and vegetables are organic, the rest are conventionally grown. The department has its own cutting station where staff hand-cut vegetables and fruits. An olive and antipasto bar is in the back of the store, sandwiched in between an expansive beer and wine section and the cheese department.

There's a grab and go meal section and salad bar. Then there's the wellness and beauty section, which sells only cosmetics, creams and soaps that are made from all natural ingredients.

There are 40 locally made products. Most of them come from Tampa Bay area craft breweries.

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Scorpiniti said the company sees a lot of potential for growth in the Tampa Bay market. He wants to open 10 stores across the region and has invited a handful of local real estate developers to take a tasting tour through the store the night before it opens.

"There's a lot of excitement when you join a completely reinvested retail center," Scorpiniti said about the Seminole City Center. Formerly the Seminole Mall, the new center is undergoing a renovation and adding a slew of new stores like Stein Mart, Home Goods, Kirklands, Rack Room Shoes and an L.A. Fitness.

"Our studies show that the people who live in Seminole are interested in healthy offerings and that's why we're here," Scorpiniti said. He declined to comment on where future store locations might land in the Tampa Bay area.

Earth Fare is one of many new organic grocery chains that are opening stores in Tampa Bay. Sprouts Farmers Market is under construction in Palm Harbor. Lucky's Market will open as part of a redevelopment of the Sears department store at Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg.

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.