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Company Thinks ‘Thyme’ Has Come for Specialty Market

City officials are lukewarm about the proposal. Some think it's a "home run," but others question if its distinctive enough.

Fresh Thyme Farmers Market wants to open a store in Farmington, but council members are lukewarm about the proposal. (Photo: Fresh Thyme Farmers Market)
Fresh Thyme Farmers Market wants to open a store in Farmington, but council members are lukewarm about the proposal. (Photo: Fresh Thyme Farmers Market)

A Midwest-based specialty grocer wants to move into a vacant store Farmington, but if Fresh Thyme Farmers Market can’t find a home there, it will look elsewhere in the area, a leasing agent who wants to bring the store to the community said.

The store, which offers healthy, organic produce and other grocery and health items, is looking at a space next to the Tuesday Morning store in the Downtown Farmington Center, said Scott Tucker, Kimco Realty’s vice president for leasing, The Observer & Eccentric Reports.

Kimco owns that strip mall and two other buildings in business enter, located near Farmington Road and Grand River Avenue.

Chicago-based Fresh Thyme plans to open one other Michigan store, in Lansing, as well as stores in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. Its aggressive buisness plan calls for opening 60 stores in five years, which it says will create 5,000 jobs.

If a deal can be reached in Farmington, the 28,000-square-foot building would be demolished because the aging building doesn’t fit Fresh Thyme’s needs, Tucker said.

He said it’s “potentially cheaper and more cost-effective to start over.” The new store would occupy the same space as the current building, but the store would need access to the city’s easement on the south end for deliveries.

Farmington City Council members had mixed reaction to the proposal. Officials like that a vacant retail space will be filled, but question whether it fits with the city’s Vision Plan.

“I’m a little disappointed with the rehashing of the ‘50s, ‘60s retail market...I’d really like to see us get away from the traditional strip mall in our downtown,” said Councilman Jeff Scott, who prefers a mixed-use multilevel development.

Mayor Pro-tem Steve Schneerman said he doesn’t think the proposed design is “particularly exciting or interesting,” and he’d rather see a plan that “really helps set it apart as something special.”

Councilman Greg Cowley disagreed, calling Fresh Thyme “a home run for the downtown,” but he wants assurance that the facility and available parking will meet the company’s needs.

“(Kimco is) spot-on with that tenant,” Cowley said. “I support that tenant greatly over others.”

Farmington Bill Galvin also supports the project. “We’re glad, we’re excited, we’re very pleased (Fresh Thyme) is looking in Farmington,” he said.

Discussion will continue. For the proposal to move forward, the city council will need to approve a Planned Use Development. But if Farmington turns it down, Fresh Thyme is likely to look elsewhere in the area, Tucker said.

Kathleen Rzepecki Sosnowski April 10, 2014 at 12:38 PM
I think the City of Farmington needs this kind of store. Hope the city does not mess this up. We have to many empty store fronts in the city. I think this would bring more shoppers to the city & other stores This kind of store is following the concept from farms to the table. We have lost A&P(Farmer Jacks), Fresh Approach & Market Fresh. I have nothing against Zam-Zam, but it's not the kind of store I would shop at. City of Farmington don't drag you feet on this opportunity to bring some new & great here.
Angela Zrull April 10, 2014 at 04:56 PM
I live just a couple of blocks from this area, and over the almost 30 years I've been here I've watched in dismay as it changed from a useful small town into a mess of failed "visions". The foolish decisions of previous city management allowed CVS to kill the privately owned drug store we once had. Farmer Jack's suicidal hubris killed the A&P. Damman's desire to sell coffee pots rather than hardware destroyed the really great hardware store we had. Big business and a series of hapless, feckless City Councils turned this once cool place into a town full of bead stores and transient coffee shops. I like ZamZam a lot, and another grocery centered on natural foods would be welcome - Halal foods and imports and local food sourcing can live happily side, I think! I'm all for getting useful stores back in our central city area.
Michael Ritenour April 11, 2014 at 09:57 AM
Ms. Zrull: I'm not sure I understand your position. On the one hand you state that "big business" destroyed the local, "privately owned" businesses here, but on the other hand you say a grocery store chain with visions of growing very large very fast can "live happily side" [sic] with Zam Zam. I'm not criticizing you and I'm not a defender of Zam Zam; I'm just trying to understand what is your message. Please explain further, because this is a very important dialog to have.
Angela Zrull April 11, 2014 at 11:23 AM
Let me clarify. My comment about "big business" referred to the city allowing CVS to build there, which inevitably drove the family owned drugstore in the shopping center out of business. What I'm questioning in general is a "vision plan" that seems to favor tattoo parlors and bead stores over businesses that residents here could actually make use of.
Michael Ritenour April 11, 2014 at 12:17 PM
Thank you for the clarification. I completely agree that we need to attract upscale, exciting businesses like Fresh Thyme. The current Farmington Vision Plan, if followed, might accommodate such an operation within the context of a multi-use residential/retail scheme (I'm not an architect, engineer, or planner, so I'll defer to others more qualified). But it needs to be done right, with proper planning and an eye toward the long-term, in order to avoid the same short-term, short-sighted "fixes" that led to the situations you described. Fresh Thyme's plans need to be a part of an overall re-do of the center that, while it may happen in stages, at least will advance the Vision Plan instead of sidelining or thwarting it. If handled properly, this could be the start of implementing the Vision Plan in a way that we could not have anticipated but which may be perfectly valid.

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