Thursday, March 10, 2011

A More Organic Grocery Alternative For Ninth Street!

As I settled back into Durham after my most recent cross-country, I read of speculation that a giant Harris Teeter may be planned right next to one of Durham’s organic and indigenous districts.

If the developer is who I surmise, there is no one who has done more to sensitively revitalize both the Downtown and Ninth Street districts and he does his homework. He cares.

But it seems to me there are much more complimentary grocery stores for an area like the Ninth Street District and hopefully developers aren’t rushing to beat the master plan in the final stages of review which wouldn’t permit something that out of synch.

New Harris Teeters run 70,000 sf which is why some have nick-named them “MajorTeeters,” a name we also affectionately gave the Grand Tetons looming above where I grew up in that nook of Idaho, pardon the pun.MOM's

That is nearly twice the size of a traditional supermarket.

I can see why Harris Teeter wants to get back into this area.  It was a huge mistake when it pulled out of the nearby Northgate complex as it was being renovated.  Someone obviously made the mistake that a lot of feasibility people do and neglected to realize the “black hole” on demographic maps is in reality, Duke University, one of the largest employers in the state.

The Ninth Street District already has Whole Foods, formerly Wellspring Grocery, which was originally located where the old Scarborough Grocery was and Magnolia Grill is now and then moved to the site that later became the former George’s Garage, both locations were right on Ninth Street and a perfect fit.

There are other, smaller alternatives perfect for Ninth Street, if another grocery store is needed.bloom_logo

At 30,000 sf, smaller than a traditional supermarket, a Bloom Grocery Store, an upscale, tech-savvy “different kind of grocery store” concept based in Salisbury, would work much better in that location.  I saw a Bloom’s for the first time last year in the Dilworth neighborhood, a similar historic area of Charlotte.  

Or maybe even better in size would be a MOM’s which run about 11,000 sf like the one in in College Park, Maryland where the owner ignored advice about demographics because he knew it was the right fit.  Mom’s are about the size of the old Wellspring (now Whole Foods) when it was directly on Ninth Street.

Don’t get me wrong. Harris Teeter is personally my favorite traditional supermarket.  I just don’t think it is a good fit in a funky, gritty, organic, indigenous district.  It could kill a Ninth Street.

If communities have a choice and want to thrive economically in the future, be very careful to sustain indigenous districts.  Just ask the folks down in Chapel Hill where a Gap store came and went and Franklin Street has never been the same.

I hope the speculation turns out to be unfounded because one things for sure, based on the Chapel Hill experience: a big box can destroy an organic district, but pulling it back out later won’t restore one.


Unknown said...

Interesting post, Reyn. FWIW, Bloom is also a big-box chain store concept owned by Food Lion. They're pruning back its growth -- Cary was supposed to get a Bloom and it became a Food Lion instead, as with Morrisville just south of RTP. You can imagine the kvetching when they "only" got a Food Lion.

Anonymous said...

we call it the 'Tajma-Teeter' and long for the days when N. Durham had a smaller HT than the monstrosity they built recently.