Whole Foods set to break ground in November

By the end of fall 2013, Whole Foods Market officials hope to have a store open in Jackson at Highland Village shopping center.

Ground will break on the project in November, with an opening set for some time next fall, though an exact date is not set.

Whole Foods officials said in February when they announced the Jackson store that they hoped to have it open by Thanksgiving 2013. “I’m not going to say that at this point, but we’re shooting for next fall,” company spokesperson Darrah Horgan wrote last week in an email to the Mississippi Business Journal.

The Austin, Texas-based healthy food grocer has 400 stores in 40 states, and has flourished by filling a niche — incorporating a lot of locally grown, organic products into its inventory.

Guy Boyll III, vice president of operation at Highland Village, said in February that the store would sit on the east side of the shopping center, between it and Old Canton Road.

Boyll said last week that exactly how Whole Foods will fit into existing space fill be finalized later this month. He said in February that whatever parking space is lost when construction starts would be regained after the store opens.

If the Jackson location follows established trend, the overall economic health of the area surrounding Highland Village should improve, at least somewhat.

A 2007 study by Realtors in Portland, Ore., revealed that the presence of a Whole Foods store increased commercial and residential real estate values by 18 percent. That’s about the average estimate analysts have used when putting a figure on Whole Foods’ impact on its surroundings.

Company CEO John Mackey said in a 2007 interview that “the joke is that we could have made a lot more money just buying up real estate around our stores and developing it than we could have selling groceries.”

Boyll said shortly after the February announcement that he believes Whole Foods will at the very least increase the amount of foot traffic at Highland Village. “It’ll bring existing customers here more often,” he said. “Those who normally come bi-weekly, I think, a lot of those folks will start to come weekly.”

There’s a chance that what’s been termed “The Whole Foods Effect” could extend to producers in the Jackson area. Horgan said earlier this year that because the store aims to sell organically grown food that is as fresh as possible, it generally uses local suppliers. “The biggest hurdle for many folks is our quality standards — we don’t sell anything with artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, sweeteners or hydrogenated fats,” Horgan said.

Before the Jackson store opens, the company plans to hold a local open house, in which regional buyers meet with farmers and producers to sample their products. The company also offers a local producer loan program that makes available low-interest loans for potential producers to spruce up their operations enough to meet Whole Foods standards.

Horgan said that will likely occur here closer to the store’s opening date. Loans range from $1,000 to $100,000.

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