The Fresh Market Opens at Westlake


DATE: 08/26/2010


Freshness Reigns New Market Focuses On ‘Customer Engagement’ From Music To Produce

The Fresh Market trainer Katy Sturtz fi lls a display tray with smoked eggplant empanadas Wednesday while preparing for the store’s fi rst day of business in Westlake Shopping Center.

PEORIA — It isn’t every grocery store you walk into that serenades its shoppers with classical music and soft light.

Still, that is only part of what makes The Fresh Market , which opened a new 25,000-square-foot store at Westlake Shopping Center on Wednesday, a unique shopping experience.

Every employee you pass in an aisle will greet you, the goods on display will always be stacked in precise order and you will find some foods not readily available elsewhere in central Illinois. In parts of the store, particularly the produce aisles, you can find locally grown goods, clearly marked.

On opening day or six months from now it will be that way. That, The Fresh Market said, is a company promise.

Add to that the tiled floors that resemble worn wood planks and the homespun decorations and one may be reminded of a small country store where the proprietor knows everyone and neighbors chat with each other while measuring out how much of the fresh candy or fruits or other products they need.

“We run very well-merchandised stores and from the time our company was founded, we’ve been very big on customer engagement,” said Brian Wittman, regional vice president for the Greensboro, N.C.-based, privately owned chain that now has 99 stores in 19 states.

The Fresh Market opened in Westlake Shopping Center on Wednesday.

The Fresh Market

Nearly 25,000 square feet of various items, including fresh produce, meats, fish and seafood, ready-to-serve entrees, domestic and imported cheeses, baked goods and wine and liquor.

_ Where: Westlake Shopping Center, 2601 W. Lake St., Peoria.

_ Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

_ Call: 679-2000.

Wittman was just one of several company officials who were in Peoria on Wednesday for the grand opening. The ceremony did not include a ribbon cutting; rather, at The Fresh Market each new store opening is celebrated with the cracking of a 75-pound wheel of precisely aged Parmesan cheese.

As part of the grand opening, the Peoria store — the company’s sixth in Illinois — will offer chances at prizes and samples of products through the weekend. One prize is a pantry valued at $1,000 filled with a collection of store products.

On hand at the opening was the family representing Cohen Development Co., chief developer of Westlake Shopping Center. Company president Les Cohen said bringing The Fresh Market to Westlake, to the space originally filled by a different grocer, Randall’s, was a long process.

“We worked hard to get them here because it truly is an extraordinary store. I’m thrilled for Westlake and for the entire city,” Cohen said.

He added he believes The Fresh Market can be considered a typical grocery or as a destination market for specialty items. “I believe that if you can’t find it here, it’s probably not worth eating,” he said.

The store was quickly filling with customers at the 9 a.m. opening.

One shopper, a young mother with two children riding in a cart, said she came to the opening out of curiosity but also because she wanted to see what was offered in organic foods.

“I don’t like the idea of feeding my family food that has been sprayed with pesticides. I want to give my family fresh food,” she said.

Another woman mentioned the organic foods as well and said she liked the more intimate size of the store. But she said her decision whether to shop The Fresh Market very often will depend on pricing.

“Some of their things seem to cost more than at other grocery stores, so I don’t know. It may just depend on what I want or need,” she said.

Wittman, the regional manager, said The Fresh Market considers itself competitive in pricing most items in the store, particularly items that can be found in most grocery stores.

He acknowledged some of the food items, including the fresh produce and meats and fish that fill the cases, may cost more but that is because of the freshness and quality.

“We believe our customers will appreciate what we offer them every day,” he said.