LAKEWOOD RANCH — Lakewood Ranch Main Street officially has a new anchor tenant.
Good Earth Natural Food Store on May 14 signed a lease for the flagship space formerly occupied by Morton’s Gourmet Market.
“It’s exciting,” Good Earth Founder and Corporate President Mark Egan said. “We have always talked about going into a location farther out east because of the development and the quality of developments that are coming out in that area.”
The Bradenton based-store has been in negotiations with Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty for about five months. Egan said the deal clincher was the space’s location, particularly its proximity to the Lakewood Ranch Medical Center and the Pinnacle Academy, whose patrons already frequent Good Earth stores.
Good Earth opened its first of three stores in 1978 and offers bulk foods, natural and organic groceries, frozen and refrigerated foods, a selection of gluten-free items and herbs and supplements, among other items.
The Lakewood Ranch location also will offer fresh sandwiches and rollups, a soup and salad bar and fresh breads because the facility already has a brick oven.
“We’re going to go in with caution,” Egan said. “Food service is something we have tried in the past, and we found that it’s difficult unless you get into it in a big way. We’ll probably be conservative to begin until we know what people want.”
Good Earth will carry its Super Tuesday tradition to the new store, meaning that customers will receive 20% off their purchases on the first Tuesday of every month, Egan said.
Store hours have not yet been set, but the location will be open nights and weekends. The owner on site will be Dominic Bucci, he said.
The anchor space on Main Street has been vacant since Morton’s Gourmet Market closed in February 2008, and filling the space has proved challenging for Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty. Because of financial difficulties, Ada’s Natural and Organic Foods backed out of a deal for the space in February, just weeks before a slated opening.
Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty President Brian Kennelly said the pieces have finally come together.
“Ultimately, I think we found the right tenant for the space,” Kennelly said. “(Good Earth is) very focused on customer (service). The owners are involved in all the stores themselves. They pride themselves on knowing the customers’ names and needs. The products they are carrying and, really, their corporate philosophy will be received well by the residents of the Ranch and the surrounding area.”
Although the prime Main Street property is largely built out, Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty will be installing a wall to shrink the space from its current 12,700 square feet to a little less than 8,700 square feet, about double the average existing Good Earth store.
“We won’t be taking the entire space,” Egan said. “It will still be larger than anything we have.”
A soft opening is expected in early August.
Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty still is looking for a tenant for the remaining portion of the anchor space, and Kennelly said he is working with a few fitness centers about the location.
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