Bradley Fair and Fresh Market confirm the grocery store is coming in 2012

UPDATED — Bradley Fair developer George Laham now confirms what Have You Heard? reported last month:

The Fresh Market grocery chain is coming to the former Ultimate Electronics space in 2012.

“The shopping center is just a perfect fit for our concept,” says Drewry Sackett, Fresh Market’s manager of public relations and community relations.

Laham, president of Laham Development, began looking for a specialty grocery store to bring to Wichita even before Ultimate Electronics closed.

In recent years, Wichitans have been hoping for a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.

“After looking at the Fresh Market, this was the clear choice,” Laham says.

“The only reason they’re not saying, ‘We want Fresh Market,’ is because they don’t know it,” says Cathy Erickson, vice president at Laham Development.

The Greensboro, N.C.-based chain has about 110 stores either open or opening soon, and this one will be the farthest west.

Sackett calls Wichita “a really solid Midwestern market that supports our growth into that region of the country.”

The chain is heavily concentrated in the southeast, which Laham says is why most Wichitans aren’t familiar with it.

Laham says as he began looking for a specialty grocery store, he looked throughout the industry before choosing Fresh Market.

“They are clearly a market leader,” he says.

Sackett says, “Our stores are a little bit different, certainly, than a traditional grocery store.”

She says the store is a warmer, more intimate atmosphere with classical music playing, freshly brewed coffee awaiting customers and floral arrangements greeting them at the door.

“You can see across the entire store, and that really sort of lends to that feeling of a more intimate setting,” Sackett says.

“It’s very much a European market,” Laham says. “It’s like being in Italy at an open-air market.”

The 22,000-square-foot space will be fairly compact to navigate.

“That’s kind of the beauty of it,” Erickson says.

Laham says that doesn’t mean the Fresh Market is short on stock, though.

The store has prepared foods, specialty meats, fish that’s brought in six times a week, a bakery, a cheese station, a candy bar and fresh produce among other things.

In addition to items from around the world, Sackett says the store tries to offer local products – especially for produce – as much as possible.

“It’s a big focus for us,” she says.

“The other thing that sets us apart is just that we recognize the value of personal connections.”

That means full service, she says, such as having a butcher available during all store hours.

“Because it does have very much of an upscale feel to it, a lot of times there is an assumption that … our prices are higher, but I think oftentimes we’re very competitive,” Sackett says.

She says there are premium items, though, such as a French hollandaise sauce she likes to buy.

Laham says there are a lot of everyday items, too.

“You can buy Froot Loops and Tide.”

There will be 3.2 beer sales, but the store won’t be able to sell wine as it does in some markets.

Although there are staples, such as convenience-sized paper towels, Sackett says, “We definitely are more focused on the food.”

Christi Royse of J.P. Weigand & Sons handled the deal for Bradley Fair, and Andy Crimmins of Merrill Cos. in Kansas City represented Fresh Market.

There still will be 7,000 square feet left to lease of the former Ultimate Electronics space.

Laham says it looks like he has a commitment on the space and likely will have an announcement within a few months.

Pier I, Bed Bath & Beyond and Redrock Canyon Grill are in the same area.

“As you can imagine, the Fresh Market will change the dynamics of that part of Bradley Fair,” Laham says.

The only other available space in the center is the 1,400 square feet next to Il Vicino where Origins had been.

“We feel like it’s been a pretty good year,” Laham says.

Sephora opened at the center, which he says was one of the most-requested retailers.

Cabela’s, another oft-requested store, is under construction at Laham’s Regency Lakes development at 21st and Greenwich. It’s one of only five new Cabela’s stores opening nationally in 2012.

Laham says Fresh Market is another important addition, especially in a difficult economy.

“To see that we have three great retailers wanting to locate in our city says so much,” he says.

“I think that says a lot for Wichita and a lot for Wichitans.”