Whole Foods bullish on Basalt prospects | AspenTimes.com

Whole Foods bullish on Basalt prospects

BASALT Whole Foods Market is proud of the fact that it has never closed a store in its 27-year history. The grocery chain’s Rocky Mountain regional president is confident a new store in Basalt won’t blemish that record.The decision by Whole Foods to open a 44,000-square-foot store in the Willits Town Center in West Basalt surprised some observers because the Roaring Fork Valley’s population is so small. Whole Foods typically targets larger metro areas. The Basalt store will be the first in a mountain resort; it will open in 2009 or 2010.Regional President Will Paradise said the Basalt store isn’t an experiment. The company signed a long-term lease and it intends to be a permanent member of the community.Paradise doesn’t consider the Basalt store a gamble, either. Company executives don’t keep their jobs by taking gambles, he said.Paradise said he was sold on the Roaring Fork Valley because of his familiarity with the area. He has friends in the valley and is an occasional visitor.He said he understands some of the dynamics of the valley – such as the willingness of residents to drive for certain products and services. Aspenites have long been famous for making downvalley shopping runs to large discount stores and grocers in Glenwood Springs and beyond.The Roaring Fork Valley doesn’t have the population concentration that Whole Foods typically targets. However, residents’ willingness to drive convinced him that a centrally-located supermarket in Basalt would draw customers from Aspen to Glenwood and even farther.Whole Foods already has “lots” of customers from the valley in its Denver-area stores, Paradise said. “They’re driving to Denver to get those things now.”Coupled with that willingness to drive is the proven demand by valley residents for the natural and organic foods – Whole Foods’ forte.Paradise said Roaring Fork Valley residents are already highly educated on the health advantages of natural and organic foods. “They understand that,” he said.So, while the Basalt supermarket won’t have as many transactions as its sister stores in Denver and other parts of the Rocky Mountain region, there will be a large number of items in the consumers’ baskets, Paradise said.The pressure to perform will be somewhat eased by the Basalt store’s compact size. The Willits store will be 44,000 square feet. Three other stores under development in the Rocky Mountain region are significantly larger: Southglenn, in the Denver area, is 58,605 square feet; Salt Lake City is at 53,380 square feet; and Boise is at 54,000 square feet.The flurry of activity in the region will determine when the Basalt store opens. Paradise said the Willits developers are expected to turn over the shell of the store by November 2008. (Another company representative said the lease with Willits allows the space to be turned over as late as June 2009.)In a best-case scenario, it will take Whole Foods four to five months to finish the spot for its store, Paradise said. However, if work is at essentially the same stage at other locations, the company will have to concentrate on some locations at the expense of the others, he explained.”We will open Basalt as fast as we can,” Paradise said.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com

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