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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Mar. 18, 201412:00 PM EST

Could Northeast Florida figure into Sprouts' growth plans?

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Is the Sprouts natural and organics grocery chain taking root in Northeast Florida’s food landscape?

Retail real estate professionals have been talking for months about interest in Northeast Florida by the Arizona-based chain, which now operates 170 stores in nine Southwestern states.

It’s already moving into the Southeast.

Sprouts spokeswoman Donna Egan said by email Monday that the company is focused on its expansion into Atlanta with four stores and she didn’t have further information regarding the Southeast, but would let us know when she had news to share about Florida.

That might be just a matter of time.

Sprouts Farmers Markets Inc., a public company, reported in its annual Form 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange that it will add stores – and that the market can support hundreds.

It said research shows the U.S. market can support about 1,200 Sprouts Farmers Market stores, including 300 in the states in which it currently operates.

That means Sprouts would open 900 stores in other states, and Georgia appears to be the foothold in the Southeast.

Sprouts expects 12 percent or more annual new store growth over at least the next five years, “balanced among existing, adjacent and new markets.”

Sprouts said it would continue to expand its store base with 22-24 stores this fiscal year, of which three have opened. That follows 19 new stores in 2013 and 11 in 2012.

In Northeast Florida, the Sprouts speculation began months ago.

Then in January, a Regency Centers Corp. executive told an International Council of Shopping Centers North Florida group that Sprouts might be coming to the market.

On Monday, retail developer Ben Hakimian said a Sprouts representative, scouting sites, visited his Shoppes of San Jose retail center at University Boulevard West and St. Augustine Road three or four months ago, but Hakimian said the company decided to concentrate on other cities and would revisit Jacksonville in six to 12 months.

Hakimian said grocery stores such as Sprouts are trending toward a focus on fresh foods and less on canned and boxed items.

Florida also is of interest because it is the fourth most populous state in the nation and gaining quickly on No. 3 New York. California is No. 1 and Texas is No. 2.

“That will grab a lot of attention from a lot of the nationals,” Hakimian said of grocery stores aiming for a nationwide reach.

Sprouts will open its Atlanta-area stores in Snellville, Dunwoody, Norcross, and Johns Creek. No opening date was available, but Egan said the first would open this summer.

Sprouts was established in 2002. The company’s stores are focused in the Southwest U.S — Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Utah. Its three distribution centers are in Arizona, California and Texas. Fiscal 2013 net sales were $2.4 billion. It has 14,000 employees.

Sprouts.com lists 12 stores as “coming soon” in the core states, as well as in Georgia.

The Phoenix-based chain, which is a public company, bills itself as one of the largest specialty retailers of natural and organic food in the United States, “focusing on health and wellness at great value.”

Sprouts says it offers “a complete shopping experience that includes fresh produce, bulk foods, vitamins and supplements, grocery, meat and seafood, bakery, dairy, frozen foods, body care and natural household items catering to consumers’ growing interest in eating and living healthier.”

When Sprouts looks for locations, it looks for population – at least 100,000 people living within a 10-minute drive; sites — build-to-suit or existing buildings in free-standing or shopping-center locations that range from 23,000 to 28,000 square feet of space; and accessibility, with visibility, convenience, signage and at least 125 parking spaces.

A typical new store requires a cash investment of about $2.8 million, consisting of $2.4 million for store build-out and $400,000 for inventory and pre-opening expenses.

If the company opens one of its specialty stores in the area, it would join several other new players in addition to established grocers.

Northeast Florida grocery newcomers include Earth Fare, GFS Marketplace and Patel Brothers, which all plan to open their first Jacksonville stores in Southside, while Trader Joe’s will open its initial area location in Jacksonville Beach. Aldi plans stores in Middleburg and St. Augustine and is expected to open more in the area.

Freshfields Farm recently opened in South Jacksonville.

Those new players join the increasing number of additional or renovated Publix Super Markets Inc. stores, Rowe’s IGA Supermarkets, Fresh Markets, Walmart Supercenters and Walmart Neighborhood Markets, as well as the established Winn-Dixie, Native Sun, Whole Foods, Save-A-Lot and SuperTarget stores, among others.

McDonald’s to buildĀ at Baymeadows, I-295

McDonald’s Corp. plans to build a fast-food restaurant at Baymeadows Road East and the Interstate 295 East Beltway. The 1.13-acre site is at southeast Baymeadows and Annie Eliza roads, next to a Gate Petroleum Co. convenience store under development.

The 4,388-square-foot McDonald’s will seat 90, according to plans under city review. CPH Inc. is the project civil engineer.

Zaxby’s building in Oakleaf

Auld & White Constructors LLC will build a Zaxby’s restaurant in Oakleaf Town Center in Southwest Jacksonville. Auld & White will build the 3,847-square-foot restaurant at 9710 Applecross Road at a project coast of $625,000. It will be the 11th Zaxby’s in Duval County. The city approved the construction permit Monday.

Food bites

Food-related businesses filed names recently with the state Division of Corporations under the Fictitious Name Law to operate:

• Oh Taste and See … , by Dorithie Taylor Morrow, mailing address 1810 W. Beaver St. (Jacksonville Farmers Market).

• Fisherman’s Galley Grill & Bar, by JWMC Enterprises LLC, mailing address is 785 Oakleaf Plantation Parkway, No. 232. James W. McCann is the manager of JWMC Enterprises.

•?Beachside Seafood Restaurant & Market, by Jax Beach Seafood Depot LLC, mailing address is 120 S. Third S., Jacksonville Beach. Jason Drake Arteaga and John F. Shuler Jr. are managing members of Jax Beach Seafood Depot.

• Sweet D’s Chocolate Fountains, by James Derek Gonder, mailing address is 1201 Dorwinion Drive.

• The Savory Market, by Savor & Dwell, mailing address is 474380 Florida 200 E., Fernandina Beach. David W. Goode is the president of Savor & Well Inc.

Dining sign

• SK! Saucy Kitchen, 7860 Gate Parkway, No. 116.

[email protected]

@MathisKb

(904) 356-2466

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