TFM_logoCEDAR RAPIDS – The Fresh Market, a specialty grocery retailer, intends to open its first Iowa store next year in the Kmart location in northeast Cedar Rapids.

A news release from the North Carolina-based chain notes that the new store is expected to open in 2014 at 180 Collins Rd. NE, offering selections of local, organic and all-natural products; prepared foods, custom cuts of meat and bulk spices.

The Fresh Market operates 144 stores in 26 states, primarily located in the Southeast, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and West Coast, with plans for continued expansion throughout the country. Its nearest location currently to Cedar Rapids is in Peoria, Ill.

News of The Fresh Market’s first foray into Iowa comes as New Pioneer Food Co-op, based in Iowa City, searches for a location for a new store, with the potential to move into the Cedar Rapids area.

General Manager Matt Hartz said the New Pi board was aware of The Fresh Market’s intentions to expand into Cedar Rapids prior to their announcement.

“Thus (we) have already factored that into our planning process,” he said. “They are a publicly traded national chain with aggressive expansion plans and it was only a matter of time before they arrived in Iowa.”

Hartz said New Pi has considered sites in all portions of its trade area, including Iowa City, North Liberty, Cedar Rapids and Marion, and market analysis indicates that The Fresh Market does not significantly impact the financial viability of a New Pi location in any of those areas.

New Pi evaluated multiple locations this summer.

“Given the competitive nature of the real estate market we necessarily need to be discreet in order to achieve the best outcome for the co-op,” Hartz said. “We are not in a position yet to announce anything publicly.”

Just like New Pi, The Fresh Market has an extensive program for supporting farmers to offer local produce and other grocery items in its stores.

“The company believes that providing local options gives its customers products with superior flavor and freshness while benefiting local economies,” The Fresh Market’s website notes. “The Fresh Market has an expanding family of local partners and welcomes inquiries from farmers and producers who are interested in participating in the program. The company’s goal is to continue to grow its selection of local, organic and all-natural products throughout the store.”

Kmart will begin liquidation sales next week at its Collins Road store, with a closing date in December. After operating in Cedar Rapids for 43 years, Kmart closed its other store at 16th Avenue SW last year.

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