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Earth Fare Continues Southeast Expansion

ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Whole Foods is not the only multistore operator with designs on cornering the health and wellness market.

Earth Fare, a natural and organic food retailer with stores in the Carolinas and surrounding states, will open its 10th store Sept. 29 in Greenville, and its 11th in Charlotte, N.C. by early January, with two more stores to follow in the first half of 2005.

The new Greenville store, which will occupy a former Bi-Lo location, will include the traditional format and product mix of Earth Fare's other stores, but will incorporate some newer design features of the Knoxville, Tenn. location, which opened last month.

"The Knoxville store was our first ground-up construction," president Mike Cianciarulo told Progressive Grocer. "The design best represents who we are. We'll try and incorporate some of these design elements in all of our future 'recycled locations' -- like the Greenville store -- whenever we can."

The new locations are part of Earth Fare's expansion strategy of opening at least four new locations each year, focusing on smaller secondary markets that are underserved when it comes to upscale, natural foods retailing. "These areas generally have few natural food stores, or traditional grocery stores with integrated organic sets in those markets," dir. of sales and marketing Troy DeGroff told PG in a separate interview. "Right now the American people are looking for these types of products."

For now, Earth Fare's growth has been focused in North Carolina and neighboring states, but Cianciarulo said he wouldn't rule out expanding beyond that territory in the future. "We'll examine opportunities as they arise -- we definitely won't limit ourselves to one geographical area," he said.

--Joseph Tarnowski
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