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Whole Foods’ Fashion Debut

Whole Foods seems to have figured out that a mall setting shouldn’t be a real estate deterrent. In fact, it might be a real asset.

The grocer has been stretching its site-selection wings over the last couple of years, but has positively taken flight with its latest opening – a 32,000-sq.-ft. store at the Fashion Island regional shopping center in Orange County, Calif.

The Irvine Co. center is a dandy – featuring Nordstrom, the county’s only Neiman Marcus, an upscale cinema and a new Apple flagship store, with tony Newport Beach as its surrounds.

In fact, Irvine’s $100-million redevelopment of its iconic property has brought in 40 new stores since 2010 plus a lineup of interesting dining options.

But, says Irvine, the newly opened Whole Foods represents a real milestone. It is the organic grocer’s fifth in Orange County, but its first in a regional center setting and it marks a Newport Beach debut. Whole Foods has a few new tricks up its sleeve for this new location, unveiling the first “Tea Hive” fusion café and tea bar for the company, as well as a beer and wine bar coined Back Bay Tavern. This most definitely isn’t your mother’s supermarket.

“Whole Foods will further enhance Fashion Island’s mix of eclectic, one-of-a-kind stores and lend to the unique customer experience of the center,” said Dan Sheridan, president of Irvine Co. Retail Properties.

I’ll say. And it will be interesting to watch Whole Foods’ continued march into atypical grocery locations as it heads toward its goal of 1,000 stores.


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