Meridian local markets await Whole Foods competition

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By Michelle Ghafari
The Meridian Times

Whole Foods’ construction

The widely discussed 2015 opening of the Whole Foods Market located on 2758 E. Grand River Ave. is causing Meridian Township excitement and concern.

This Whole Foods Market will be Michigan’s seventh location and Ingham County’s first.

Director of the Meridian Township community and planning development board Mark Kieselbach says that the building permit has yet to be officially requested and doubts the market will be ready by the end of the year.

Although construction has begun, only exterior structural work and minor utility work will continue until the permit is approved.

“So it could be 4 to 6 months to build the exterior, inside utilities and then they could spend another 6 months getting it where they want it,” said Kieselbach.

Even without the construction, many local businesses are well aware that this site will soon be a Whole Foods Market.

Meridian’s existing stores are preparing for the new Austin, Texas, chain competitor.

Foods For Living, across the street on East Grand River Avenue highly anticipates the changes.

“It’s easy to feel like someone moving in and picking our pocket, but to be fair this is just the sort of market that they look for,” said one of Foods For Living assistant managers, Jason Lantrip.

Foods for Living sells organic foods, whole foods, nutritional and body care products.

Lantrip hopes Whole Foods will help bring in new customers for Foods For Living as well.

“What we’ve been able to see in other markets where this has happened, is that there will be a dip in business and then things recover over time. And what I guess what our hopes are that they are a large enough entity that they draw more people into the health food market,” said Lantrip.

Lantrip says that the Foods For Living staff has already been discussing how to deal with the new competition.

“I think we of course mainly have to adhere to the principles that have guided us this far that have been what have allowed us to succeed at this level so really we will just put an emphasis on what we do well, which involves customer service and really helping guide people through what can be a confusing market for newbies,” said Lantrip.

“We are just concerning ourselves with today.” said Lantrip.

Another local business that has slight concern is the Meridian Township Farmers’ Market.

“The new Whole Foods Market may or may not affect the farmers’ market. The market also has a very dedicated customer base. Plus, at the market, customers can talk directly with the person who grew the products they’re buying and build that personal relationship with each vendor,” said Christine Miller, Meridian Township market manager.

Miller says she thinks Whole Foods will have an overall good impact on the area, and hopes that it may help the vendors expand sales if they sell to the Whole Foods Market.

Kieselbach says that Whole Foods will have some impact but he is not sure if it is going to be a large enough one to close down existing stores.

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