By Jane Smith
Two areas of Delray Beach may soon see new grocery stores in their neighborhoods.
In the south side of the city, a type of Whole Foods Market likely will open in late 2018 in Lavers International Plaza.
The Delray Beach location at 600 W. Linton Blvd. could be the first 365-branded store in Florida, according to the Whole Foods website. The 365 stores are smaller and focus on produce.
In the Set, made up of the Northwest and Southwest neighborhoods along Atlantic Avenue, a Publix store could open in 2019.
The city’s Community Redevelopment Agency agreed to sell 2.75 acres in the 600 block of West Atlantic to a broker for Publix. The grocery chain has 150 days to allow its real estate committee to review the site. The price will be $2 million for the land, where Publix could construct a 25,000-square-foot store.
“There’s a whole process this has to go through,” said Randy Holihan, president of Pasadena Capital Inc., a real estate broker in Orlando. “Everyone is putting the cart before the horse.”
But residents living in the Set have waited more than 30 years to have a grocery store within their community.
“It’s been in the plans for a long time,” said resident Angie Gray, who is a residential real estate agent and former city commissioner.
After the CRA board approved the deal on June 8, the meeting room erupted in applause.
The Lavers Plaza store is further along with its plans. The project’s site plan was approved by the city in May.
Steve Collins, of S.J. Collins Enterprises of Georgia, represented the project before the city’s Site Plan Review and Appearance board.
He could not be reached for comment. But other indicators point to the location as suitable for a 365-branded store from Whole Foods. The 365 concept, named after the chain’s private-label brand, was created as the answer to critics who said Whole Foods’ products are too expensive.
The 365 stores carry one-third of the products of the traditional Whole Foods Market and have more self-service departments, such as for meat and seafood, John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods, said at the Oppenheimer Consumer Conference last year. As a result, Mackey said, labor costs are lower and the 365 stores are less expensive to run.
The 365 stores also feature a loyalty program and have in-store “grocerants,” food boutiques set up by entrepreneurs.
The Lavers Plaza 365 store would be approximately 30,025 square feet and offer outside dining.
The site is less than a mile west of a Trader Joe’s grocery store in Delray Place. Market basket surveys of similar items in Trader Joe’s and 365 by Whole Foods showed that prices in both were similar.
When announcing its Whole Foods chain purchase in mid-June, Amazon threw the grocery chain a lifeline.
Its $13.7 billion acquisition, expected to close by the end of the year, came after several quarters of declining sales at Whole Foods stores that had been open at least one year. The declining sales had attracted some activist investors who pressed for a sale.
The deal could help the Whole Foods chain buy more higher-quality products at lower prices, several analysts have said.
So far, Amazon has said little about how it intends to run the Whole Foods chain.
— Rich Pollack contributed to this story.
By Jane Smith