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The Fresh Market opens in Lakewood Ranch

More than 100 residents lined up to be the first shoppers in The Green's new store on State Road 70.

Residents line up to get into The Fresh Market on April 24.
Residents line up to get into The Fresh Market on April 24.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer
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The parking lot at The Green looked like it was Black Friday on April 24 because The Fresh Market opened.

Over 100 residents lined up before 8 a.m. April 24 to be the first shoppers in the store. Lines for the checkouts flowed into the aisles, and the butcher’s counter served nearly 25 customers in the first 15 minutes of the doors opening.

Lakewood Ranch neighbors Toula Vasos and Linda Adams carpooled and shopped together. 

“I was hoping for a Fresh Market before there was any indication this would be a Fresh Market,” Vasos said. “I moved here from Indiana about a year and a half ago. We had Fresh Markets in Indiana. So when I heard a Fresh Market was going in here, I couldn’t wait. I love the fresh guacamole that's made here."

Less than 15 minutes after opening, the butcher's counter is serving its 24th customer.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

Adams is simply sick of driving to Whole Foods on University Parkway. 

That was something Fresh Market's Regional Manager of Operations Todd Kerscher used to hear regularly at The Fresh Market at University Town Center. 

“Every day, the folks in Lakewood Ranch would come in and say, ‘What are you doing to us? We’re driving way too far,'” Kerscher said. “When this became available, we thought it was a no-brainer from a demographic perspective. The clientele here is really well suited to what we do.”

All The Fresh Market stores offer hand-picked produce and custom-cut meats. The more than 24,000 square-foot store on State Road 70 offers the latest iteration of the supermarket that includes an expanded kitchen. 

“There are significantly more offerings that are ready-to-eat, also things that can be taken home, and with very little prep, be on the table for the family very quickly,” Kerscher said. “We employ people from the restaurant industry who are chefs as opposed to classically trained grocers.” 

The brisket is smoked over local hardwoods for 12 hours in an in-house smoke pit. The Fresh & Hot Pizzas are made in-house, too. 

Customers can grab and go or stay to eat. Tables are set up inside the store and on the outside patio. 

The store on S.R. 70 opens at 7 a.m., an hour earlier than the store on University Parkway. Both stores close at 9 p.m.

To further cater to the breakfast crowd, the S.R. 70 store added breakfast sandwiches to the menu. And there are three ways to get coffee – a self-service station, a full-service station and a coffee bar. The coffee bar offers iced coffees, lattes, mochas and hot tea.

The produce, deli, meat, seafood, bakery and floral departments are full-service. Specialty products include cheese, wine and local craft beers. 

While Publix dominates the grocery store market in the Lakewood Ranch area – there’s a Publix across the street from the new store on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard – Kerscher said the brand doesn’t worry about the competition.

“A lot of guests think of typical grocery shopping – getting milk and laundry detergent and all that – as a task,” he said. “With restaurant quality food and quick, convenient meals at a great value, we’re able to answer that life long question of ‘What’s for dinner?’ quickly.”

Kerscher said the goal of every staff member is to give the customer the greatest experience they’ve ever had grocery shopping. 

The grand opening was no exception to that credo. The event started with a bread breaking ceremony in front of the store. The experience continued inside the store with a performance by award-winning international concert cellist Steve Kramer.

The first 500 guests received a customized Lakewood Ranch shopping bag, and Feeding Tampa Bay received a check for $2,000. The store will also make weekly food donations to the nonprofit. Feeding Tampa Bay provides food assistance across 10 counties, including Manatee. 

Rose Truong and Thu Tran drove to work early in the morning April 24. They work next door to The Fresh Market at Lavish Nails & Spa. Not only were the women excited to check out the store and shop, they’re happy to have an anchor store back in the plaza. 

“We couldn’t wait,” Tran said. “It’ll drive business to us, too.”

This article has been updated.



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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