Anyone want to buy a grocery store in West Hartford’s Bishops Corner? On Friday the Courant reported that, as part of a federal antitrust settlement, the Whole Foods store in Bishops Corner must be sold within the next six months. Whole Foods will also be selling 12 other stores currently operating around the country.
The outcome is the result of a complaint initially filed by the FTC in June 2007 which tried to block Whole Foods acquisition of Wild Oats Markets, sighting that the merger would “violate federal antitrust laws by eliminating the substantial competition between these two uniquely close competitors in numerous markets nationwide in the operation of premium natural and organic supermarkets.”
Sigh. I’m sure this is a wonderful time to be trying to sell a grocery store. The economy is doing fabulously, particularly in business areas with historically low margins. And aren’t business loans plentiful right now? [Sarcasm noted]
To be honest with you, I have no idea how the Bishops Corner location of Whole Foods was doing financially. I’m sure the corporate wonks at Whole Foods were not going to easily give up a store that was going gang busters. I do however realize that there are a lot of people living in the Bishops Corner area that probably shop at that Whole Foods location. Not to mention all of the people that stop by while commuting to Hartford via Route 44 (Albany Avenue) from Simsbury and Avon on a daily basis. Are those commuters going to take a 1.75 mile detour to get to the Blue Back Square location? Probably not.
This is not to say there are not other grocery store choices in Bishops Corner. Wauldbaums, and The Crown Market do a stand up job. Their offerings are different though, with Wauldbaums being a more traditional supermarket and The Crown focusing on more fresh options, with gourmet takeout and catering. One could argue that these two stores, in combination with the Whole Foods, each served a different niche market and balanced each other out with their diverse product offerings.
So, who is going to fill this storefront? We’ve got 6 months before the big, loud vacant tenant sucking sound starts people.
Stop & Shop? No, too much like Wauldbaums.
Shaws? No, same problem as Stop & Shop, too much like Wauldbaums.
Stew Leonards? No, the store footprint is too small and parking is not adequate.
Highland Park Market? Hmm, this would be an interesting venture West of the River. Probably too close to a Crown Market model though.
Trader Joe’s? Please, please, please!
Aldi? Probably not, as they have not built out the Elmwood location yet and that business would need to be proven first.
What are the other non-food options? You pretty much have to assume it will need to be a mid-sized Big Box retailer to adequately fill and keep the space vital. Thoughts from readers?
As a side note, I’m not even a Whole Foods shopper. Except for their delicious chocolate cupcakes, on occasion. My interest in this development is, if this space cannot be filled by someone in the next 6 months, how will this empty store front affect vitality in the Bishops Corner area? The Whole Foods brought shoppers that most likely purchased goods and services from other stores in the immediate area. How will those complementary businesses be affected by this in the upcoming months if a new tenant is not found? Particularly in our current economy.