Lisa Chamberlain, in her article A Destination for Serious Eating [NYT] expounds “Although it has always had a few well-known specialty stores, downtown Manhattan has seemingly overnight become a mecca for food shopping.” There are a variety of specialty food stores, a niche seemingly ignored by the chain supermarkets, that have been moving into metropolitan markets, namely the emerging downtown areas.
Four years after entering Manhattan, Whole Foods, the Austin based specialty food chain, has become the stamp of authenticity, a happening, a sign that a residential neighborhood or new development “has arrived” [REJ]. Stores in Chelsea and Union Square made that statement. The new Time Warner development at Columbus Circle gave credibility to one of the few “malls” in the borough as an anchor tenant. Rumors of new locations provoke speculation [Curbed].
The same sort of public interest is seen in Miami, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC [DC Bubble] and others. In fact, its become part of the grocer vocabulary [Centerstage] implying a category or type of foods.
Over the past 7 years, the housing boom and aging baby boomers have helped revitalize many downtown urban areas [Matrix] throughout the US. Many US retailers have stayed away from these markets because the required space was large and not especially cost effective. However, now that the demographics and economics are changing, grocery chains are starting to get the importance of this phenomenon and are following suit.
[Webmaster’s note: No, I don’t own stock in Whole Foods, but I have purchased dried figs on occasion.]