As major supermarket chains continue to renovate and smaller companies enter the market, Jacksonville grocer Rob Rowe has quietly expanded to open his sixth Rowe's IGA, this one in the Town of Baldwin.
It's the midpoint of where he wants to take his company in 2014.
Rowe said Tuesday he wants to double the number of his stores. He is working on four potential locations outside of Jacksonville and wants to open at least two more in the area.
"I'm looking wherever it makes sense," Rowe said. Rowe's latest store is the former Spires IGA Express Market in Baldwin. It opened Dec. 30.
It's just 8,500 square feet, much smaller than his typical 40,000-square-foot stores.
Rowe said his team worked around the clock for about three weeks to open it and says that while it is small, "it is super nice."
Rowe's team, including Baldwin store manager Dave Peicott, edited the offerings to fit the store and the market.
The store carries most of the goods a shopper might need, but perhaps not in all sizes. It doesn't have an in-store bakery, deli or seafood department, but does stock those products.
Rowe said he leases the building, which had been closed for almost a year, from the Town of Baldwin. He said he invested about $400,000 in the improvements and inventory.
The store is open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily and employs 15 people.
Baldwin is a Duval County town of about 1,400 people and is 20 miles west of Jacksonville off of Interstate 10. U.S. 90, known better as West Beaver Street, runs through it.
"The people are great and have been so happy that we are there that it makes us proud to be a part of their community," Rowe said.
"This was not a store we did so much for business reasons. It was all about helping the town and serving a need for them," he said.
Rowe said it was a "real nice way to start a new year."
Baldwin Mayor Stan Totman said Tuesday that Rowe's experience in the grocery business brings more selection to the town, combined with the new Family Dollar and Dollar General stores.
Totman said the store was built years ago with an economic grant to promote jobs and business in a rural area.
He was it was owned by the Town of Baldwin. The original tenants left the business and the store has been empty for a few months.
"The town wanted to get someone with previous grocery experience. So when Mr. Rowe approached us, it has been a perfect fit," Totman said.
With growth in the area, "I think this will be a good fit for the citizens of the entire area," he said, referring to the I-10 and U.S. 301 area.
Baldwin is at the U.S. 301 exit off I-10.
Rowe appears to be on a roll.
He opened his fifth Rowe's IGA Supermarket in September in the Marietta Square shopping center along West Beaver Street at Bulls Bay Highway.
Like three other Rowe's supermarkets, it's a former Food Lion store.
Rowe, an industry veteran, originally launched his business with the 2005 acquisition of seven closed Albertsons stores, selling one site and opening six Rowe's Supermarkets. He then sold five of those and kept the Blanding location.
He then expanded, especially after Food Lion shut its remaining 20 area grocery stores in 2012.
With two Rowe's Supermarkets up and operating by then, Rowe was in the market for more and settled on two closed Food Lions at Dunn Avenue and U.S. 1 and in Orange Park.
Rowe said 370 people work at the stores, ranging from 15 in Baldwin to 90 at the larger store at Blanding.
He works with the IGA system, a brand for independent grocery chains.
Rowe created separate limited liability companies to own each store and there are eight LLCs filed with the state, along with a management LLC.
He said two more should be filed.
Rowe said he expects to open four full-size stores outside the area and at least two in the county, of which some might be conversions of empty stores that had not been supermarkets.
He declined to provide details, citing confidentiality agreements. Asked if he was looking Downtown, he said that was not an immediate market.
Some of his next stores might be smaller — Rowe said 12,000 square feet is a good size for an express-type market.
"If it's needed and available, we'll do it," he said.
Rowe's is expanding as the area attracts more supermarkets and food providers, including new players Aldi, Trader Joe's, Earth Fare, GFS Marketplace and Freshfields Farm.
Meanwhile, Publix Super Markets Inc. continues to renovate and rebuild stores; Walmart is renovating its Supercenters and building more Neighborhood Markets; The Fresh Market will open in Riverside; and Bi-Lo Winn-Dixie acquired more supermarket chain stores throughout the Southeast.
Rowe's IGA Supermarkets
|5435 Blanding Blvd.||Albertsons|
|8595 Beach Blvd., Unit 329||Food Lion|
|6765 Dunn Ave.||Food Lion|
|1670 Wells Road, Orange Park||Food Lion|
|8299 W. Beaver St.||Food Lion|
|190 S. Lima St., Baldwin||Spires IGA Express Market|
Gate signing up at Emerson
Gate Petroleum is putting up its Gate and Best Bean signs at its new store at 3150 Emerson St., just off Interstate 95. The store will replace an existing smaller Gate nearby. Harbinger is the contractor for the five signs at a project cost of $25,800.
Licensed to serve
Duval County Tax Collector Michael Corrigan issued a business license to:
• Silver Cow Jax LLC, to Regina M. Hoffington, 1506 King St.
Food-related businesses filed names with the state Division of Corporations under the Fictitious Name Law to operate:
• Cowford Coffee, by Henry R. Levine, 12225 Smoke Ridge Circle S.
• Sandwich Depot, by Farah's Sandwich Depot LLC, 9379 Jaybird Circle E.
• White Harvest Farmer's Market, by Clara White Mission Inc., 613 W. Ashley St.
• Clara's at the Cathedral, by Clara White Mission Inc., 613 W. Ashley St.
• Volcanista Coffee Co., by Cherry Leaf Enterprises LLC, 317 Seminole Road, Atlantic Beach.