By Whitney Burney
Meridian Times staff writer
The Whole Foods Grocery franchise plans to open its seventh Michigan location here in Meridian Township.
The store was originally expected to open by 2015 but representatives now hope to finish the project by later this year.
The store will have 35,000 square feet and will create 150 new jobs including customer service and store leadership positions.
Although the location is still under site review, it is expected to be at 2758 E. Grand River Ave. and almost directly across the street from employee-owned health food store Foods For Living.
Store director Kirk Marrison says that he was not surprised to hear that Whole Foods was coming to Meridian Township. He said that he actually thought it would happen somewhere around 2007, before the recession. The only thing he was surprised about was the location.
“From the numbers that we’ve seen in other communities where they’ve come in, generally it takes off a pretty significant chunk for the first few months,” said Marrison. “Everyone is curious, everyone wants to go see what’s going on with it.”
Naturally, fear of competition would arise. Foods For Living staff believes that with their loyal customers they will be able to compete with their future neighbors.
“I think people will just split,” said Marrison. “If they find things they love there and they’ve already been shopping here for years, I think they will just split it.”
According to township Treasurer Julie Brixie, the response from the community has been positive.
“Whole Foods has brought more positive comments from the community than any project other than Douglas J in my 15 years of involvement with Township Planning,” said Brixie.
“People are really excited that the Lansing region is getting this type of store.”
Brixie and other township board members agree that Whole Foods is the kind of business that attracts other businesses and may help Foods For Living.
“We aren’t in the business of limiting competition in Meridian Township,” said Brixie.
Brixie explained that originally when Foods For Living opened there was a bit of comment in the community that East Lansing Food Co-op would not survive and that has not been the case.
“It’s exciting that Meridian Township is the type of community that has really developed a health food niche market,” said Brixie. She said that she is confident that both businesses can survive and will be advantages to the Meridian Township economy.
“Certainly there will be more traffic coming down this way,” said Marrison. “Especially if people are coming in from the highway and driving past this place to get to that place there’s a good chance we’ll get some (customers) from that. “
Marrison also said that many customers have come forth and told managers and store clerks that they plan to continue to support Foods For Living.
“It all depends on the prices,” said Amy Shulman, customer of four years. “I’d rather support Foods For Living because it’s local and it’s not such a large chain store. If this remains more competitively priced, I would continue to shop here.”
Marrison said Whole Foods has a bit of an advantage when it comes to prices. Because they are such a large chain, they have their own generic store brand that is normally priced lower than the brands that both stores carry.
“We’ve all been being positive about it and keeping a smile on our face,” said store clerk Kellie Mackin. “A healthy competition never hurt anybody.”