Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, riding a wave of interest in smaller-size grocery stores, will open its seventh location in the Twin Cities in Minneapolis on Wednesday.
“It’s one of the coolest projects we’ve ever done,” Chris Sherrell, chief executive of Fresh Thyme, said as he checked out the store Tuesday. “It fits everything we’re about — fun and funky, New Age and health.”
The location at 24 30th Av. SE. is part of The Link, a mixed-use development that includes 336 apartments in a 13-story tower above the store. It’s the first supermarket in the neighborhood, and it includes a liquor store.
What’s unusual for a project in such a densely populated area is the abundance of parking. The surface lot has more than 30 spaces. There are 100 more underground spots in a garage that also has a “cartilator,” an escalator for shopping carts.
Chicago-based Fresh Thyme entered the Twin Cities market in 2015 in Bloomington.
Since then, the supermarket has added locations in Apple Valley, Plymouth, Savage, St. Louis Park, Vadnais Heights and Waite Park. It specializes in an extensive produce selection, as well as meat, deli, bulk foods, dairy, frozen foods and health supplements.
The new Fresh Thyme, about 29,000 square feet, is well-positioned at a time when retail grocers are downsizing their new stores. Hy-Vee CEO Randy Edeker announced last year that the company put a hold on construction of new locations in the Twin Cities as it rethinks sizing of its stores, which are around 90,000 square feet.
Both Fresh Thyme and Trader Joe’s have stores that are part of apartment complexes in St. Louis Park. That concept of grocery stores in mixed-use developments is going to become common in the region in the next year.
Cub Foods is testing its first urban concept store at 46th and Hiawatha, set for next year. Trader Joe’s is scheduled to open a new store on Washington Avenue in downtown Minneapolis this summer. Aldi will open a new Minneapolis store at 26th and Lyndale and one in Chanhassen, both next year. All those stores are about half the size of a typical Cub or Hy-Vee and will be built as part of a mixed-use development that includes housing.
“We’re seeing that virtually all lifestyles are time-starved these days,” said Mark Doiron, chief merchandising officer at Fresh Thyme. “They want a store that you can navigate easily with one look and get in and out quickly.”
The grand opening starts at 7 a.m. Wednesday and will include a free bag of groceries to the first 250 customers 18 or older. The event continues through Saturday with live music, kids’ activities, food sampling and beer tastings. Special pricing offered at the Minneapolis location will also be honored at the six other Twin Cities locations.
The Prospect Park location will be the company’s 71st store. Sherrell said he doubts the company will fulfill his original goal of 12 Twin Cities stores by 2020, but he added, “We still think this is a 12- to 15-store market. We’re very happy with the Minnesota market.”
The company has hired about 100 full-time and part-time employees to operate the new location.