Whole Foods looks to open new store in South Windsor

Photo of Luther Turmelle
Whole Foods in Darien, Conn.

Whole Foods in Darien, Conn.

Contributed photo / Patrick Sikes / For Hearst Connecticut Media

Upscale grocer Whole Foods is hoping to expand its presence east of the Connecticut River.

The Texas-based retailer, which is subsidiary of e-commerce giant Amazon, is eyeing a spot in the Evergreen Walk lifestyle center in South Windsor. Whole Foods received a preliminary approval on June 8 for its plan to building a 50,000 square foot store along the western edge of the lifestyle center.

If the retailer’s site plan is approved later this year, Whole Foods would move into space formerly occupied by Highland Park Market, which closed in June 2010.

The Whole Foods would also take space currently occupied by an Old Navy store and Sakura Gardens, which is a Japanese restaurant, according to Michael Maniscalco, South Windsor’s Town Manager. Those two businesses would relocate to other parts of Evergreen Walk.

“Having a grocery store will help the other retailers there,” Maniscalco said Thursday. “The idea of having that consistently returning customer base is very beneficial.”

Although Whole Foods has eight locations in Connecticut, only one — the retailer’s store in Glastonbury — is located east of the Connecticut River to serve Hartford’s eastern suburbs. The retailer is scheduled to open its ninth location in Avon this fall.

If Whole Foods gets the approvals it needs to open in Evergreen Walk, it will have plenty of competition. South Windsor has a Stop & Shop, an Aldi and a Geisler’s Supermarket, and there is a Trader Joe’s in Manchester less than a mile from where Whole Foods wants to build.

“There’s over 100,000 people in the regional trade area and the way people shop today is a lot different than the way they used to,” Maniscalco said. “People don’t do all of their grocery shopping at one store.”

The town manager said he views Whole Foods’ plans for a store at Evergreen Walk as part of a renaissance at the lifestyle center, which opened in 2004. Maniscalco said Greenwich-based Charter Realty & Development took over management of the property about a year ago.

“They were really aggressive: They came in and laid out the types of challenges that Evergreen Walk is facing and what they could do to address that,” he said. “Evergreen Walk is a high class retail establishment that used to be filled with a lot of great retailers.”

Nearly a third of the gross leaseable area in Evergreen Walk is currently vacant, according to Charter Realty & Development’s web page. But Burt Flickinger, managing director of New York City based Strategic Resource Group, said the arrival of Whole Foods at the lifestyle center will really revitalize it.

“A whole bunch of other retailers are going to want to locate there,” Flickinger said. “Whole Foods has some of highest retail sales per square foot in the industry. They typically produce $970 per square foot and the numbers at South Windsor could be even higher.”

luther.turmelle@hearstmediact.com