A national trend for smaller, specialty grocery stores is taking hold in Pasco County.
Within the next year, Earth Fare, Sprouts Farmers Market, and possibly Lucky’s Market will open grocery stores that specialize in natural, organic and fresh foods.
Aldi is planning to open its no-frills, discount grocery stores in Zephyrhills and New Port Richey in 2019. Also, a new store is coming to the southeast corner of State Road 54 and Wesley Chapel Boulevard, on a parcel owned by developers of the Cypress Creek Town Center.
South Branch Ranch developers submitted plans to the county that include a “prototype” grocery store within a mix of commercial, office and retail. The approximately 25,000-square-foot store, on State Road 54 at Suncoast Parkway, would fit within the size range for boutique-style grocery shopping.
These new foodie arrivals on the retail scene follows an explosion of growth all over Pasco of more shops, restaurants and residential development.
Activity centers include Cypress Creek Town Center, the Village at Mitchell Ranch, Starkey Ranch and Wiregrass Ranch.
Rooftops and retail are two major parts of getting development started, and making them profitable, said Bill Cronin, executive director of the Pasco Economic Development Council Inc.
“Some of the developments now are coming to fruition with their plans,” Cronin said.
Grocery stores are one part of that development pattern.
As 2019 unfolds, Pasco residents can anticipate a buffet line of new grocery options in addition to the traditional brand names, such as Publix and Winn Dixie.
According to the U.S. Grocery Store Trends 2018, consumers continue to prize high-quality fruits and vegetables, low prices, and great product selection and variety.
Currently, the new trend in groceries is for smaller stores that offer organic, natural and local foods. In addition, consumers are looking for something extra – a food “experience.”
“Everybody is looking for that food experience, whether its ethnic sourcing or that new product,” said David Fikes, vice president of communications and community/consumer affairs director for the Food Marketing Institute. “It’s not (about) giving people 11 varieties of ketchup in the store.
The digital age is ushering in coupons and social connectivity via mobile applications. Online grocery shopping is gaining in popularity, especially with millennials, according to the survey.
Baby boomers, though, are showing keen interest, as well.
Experiences are shared on Facebook, or other social media, as if saying “I discovered this, and you’re the foodie among your group,” Fikes said.
Prior generations would shop to stock the pantry in order to have enough food on hand, Fikes said. That evolved later to a desire for nutritional, healthy food, he added.
Now, a third factor is a desire for discovery, engagement and connection, according to the FMI survey.
“We are moving away from stocking up our pantry to what’s the next meal,” Fikes said.
The specialty grocery stores coming to Pasco include:
The store will open at Cypress Creek Town Center, at 25535 Sierra Center Blvd. The organic-based grocery store boasts that shoppers don’t need to read labels to know its products are healthy.
Its food is free of added hormones, artificial anything, and, according to Earth Fare’s website, the store sells “100 percent clean food for your family.”
Earth Fare began in Asheville, North Carolina, as a health food store before it enlarged and, in 1994, became a full-service grocery store. Its stores are built to be energy efficient, with skylights and LED light bulbs. Biodegradable to-go containers are used, and recycling is encouraged in the store.
Among its features is the Heirloom Juice Bar.
Aldi is in the permitting phase for a store at 2215 Sun Vista Drive, which is near the Tampa Premium Outlets, off State Road 56. The store is expected to open in fall 2019, according to email responses from Matt Thon, Haines City Division vice president for Aldi.
Thon also confirmed in the email that an Aldi will open in Zephyrhills, but no other details are available.
The location under discussion is off Pretty Pond Road, at U.S. 301. One issue nearing resolution at the site is the relocation of a traffic signal to that intersection.
The traffic signal “is under design review and engineering,” said Todd Vande Berg, Zephyrhills’s planning director.
Plans are to remove the existing signal at the main entrance to the shopping plaza, but to have traffic signals at the north and south ends of the plaza.
No construction date is set, but Vande Berg anticipates Aldi will open in 2019.
Lucky’s is eyeing an approximately $1.5 million renovation to the former Winn Dixie grocery store at Collier Parkway and State Road 54, according to county records.
A pre-application meeting with county planners was held in November.
The Lucky’s option isn’t a done deal, but is the latest grocery to show interest in the site. Previously, representatives for Sprouts Farmers Market made inquiries and submitted a plan for a grocery store, as well as retail and a restaurant.
Nothing came of the proposal.
Now, Lucky’s is exploring options, though a spokeswoman for Lucky’s said no contract is signed.
The pre-application included demographics suggesting why the site has potential.
Average daily vehicle trips within 3 miles of the site, on State Road 54, total nearly 40,000; within 7 miles, more than 173,000 vehicle trips are charted.
About 14,770 households are within 3 miles of the proposed Lucky’s, and about 66,000 within 7 miles. Average household income ranges from about $87,000 to $94,000.
Lucky’s began in 2003 with inspiration from two chefs.
The store highlights local, organic and natural foods. Customers can sip glasses of wine or beer at an in-store café, or as they stroll along the aisles and fill their carts.
Lucky’s also has a juice bar, hot-ramen bar, a bulk foods section, and specialty foods, including house-made sausage and in-house smoked bacon.
Sprouts Farmer’s Market
Pasco’s first Sprouts Farmers Market will be one of three anchor stores at the 165,000-square-foot shopping center, The Village at Mitchell Ranch, according to a Dec. 13 press release from The Shopping Center Group.
Other anchors will be HomeGoods and Michaels. The shopping center is in Trinity, at Little Road and State Road 54.
The Arizona-based chain opened its first store in 2002. Its roots, however, date to 1943 and a fruit stand operated by Henry Boney in San Diego.
Sprouts features natural foods at affordable prices. Its motto is “eating clean and living healthy.” Today, the chain has about 300 stores and 28,000 employees.
By Kathy Steele
Published December 19, 2018