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Published: Wednesday, 10/24/2007

Westgate will get gourmet grocery

A gourmet grocery chain based in North Carolina has signed a deal to take the largest remaining space in the redeveloped Westgate Village Shopping Center.

The Fresh Market, of Greensboro, which operates 70 stores in the Southeast and Midwest, plans to open in Westgate next to Stein Mart by next summer.

Westgate owner Liz Holland, chief executive of Abbell Credit Corp., of Chicago, said Fresh Market signed a lease last week after protracted negotiations that began over four months ago.

The retailer will use 21,000 square feet and have about 90 workers. The West Toledo center will have the building ready by March, but then the store will begin its own modifications.

"We looked at home goods, electronics, and spoke to some bookstores briefly for that space," Ms. Holland said. But a gourmet grocer was the first choice because surveys of residents in the Westgate area showed the first preference was a gourmet grocer.

The redeveloped center reopened this year after a $35 million investment.

The retailer specializes in prepared foods but has a full-service philosophy. Its stores feature a meat department with a butcher on duty, a European-style delicatessen, a bakery, a produce department, and fresh seafood flown into stores six times per week.

The market shouldn't compete with Costco, because they offer different foods, Ms. Holland said. However, Fresh Market likely will compete, she said, with Kroger and nearby smaller grocers such as Churchill's and Schorling's Five-Star Markets, both of which sit less than a mile away.

With the lease, Westgate will have two remaining spaces to fill and a third small space will be created from leftover space the Fresh Market will not use. The center is close to filling one of those spaces, Ms. Holland said, declining to name the store.

- Jon Chavez

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