NORMAN — Three new grocers are on track to open their doors in Norman this year, adding a burst of activity to the grocery market.
Crest breaks ground on its new store next week in the University Town Center shopping center. Sprouts Farmers Market opens at 555 W Main, in a former Hobby Lobby, March 27. And Walmart has started dirt work on a Neighborhood Market and fuel center planned for Rock Creek Road and 36th Avenue NW.
John Woods, president of the Norman Chamber of Commerce, said each project is unique and fulfills a niche in the market.
“These are three very unique, three very positive projects all serving different areas,” Woods said. “It bodes well for the community.”
He also hinted at an additional grocer likely to announce a Norman store in the next six months but wouldn't disclose the retailer's name.
At 105,000 square feet, the Crest Fresh Market is the largest of the three projects. The store is expected to open in October and will have specialty meat and seafood products, a sushi bar, salad bar and olive bar, similar to the Oklahoma City store at SW 104 and May Avenue, said Crest Foods President Bruce Harroz. It will be the eighth store for Crest, which is also eyeing east Edmond and Yukon for expansion.
The Norman Crest is on the southeast side of University Town Center, in an area laid out for future development, said John Cohlmia, a broker for Grubb & Ellis-Levy Beffort, who represented Crest in the $2.1 million land purchase.
Its proximity to two other grocery stores — SuperTarget and Homeland — doesn't concern Harroz, son of Crest founder Nick Harroz.
“Norman is just growing so fast, it's unbelievable ... it's just booming. It's ripe for another grocery store,” he said.
Sprouts Farmers Market will be a new name in Norman but the grocer has stores in Oklahoma City and Edmond, which it acquired when the company merged with Sunflower Farmers Market last summer.
The 28,000-square-foot store will feature the chain's signature low- profile produce displays, which give it a hometown feel, said Steve Black, chief information and marketing officer for Sprouts. Stores emphasize fresh fruits and vegetables, organic and gluten-free grocery items, natural meats and vitamins.
“It's not the conventional grocery store a lot of Oklahomans are used to,” said Black, who is from Oklahoma but now resides in Arizona, where Sprouts is based.
Black said the location for the Norman store, adjacent to a liquor store in the former Hobby Lobby, was chosen for its proximity to the University of Oklahoma campus and downtown Main Street shopping.
Residents from thousands of cities request a Sprouts store, but the response was particularly strong for Norman, Black said. A Facebook page for the Norman store already has more than 4,400 “likes” and a crowd is expected at the grand opening on March 27.
The first 200 shoppers inside when the store opens at 7 a.m. receive a free grocery bag filled with items. There will also be giveaways, demos and food tastings throughout the day.
On March 30, the store will give the first 300 shoppers coupons for five free sandwiches. Other promotions that day will reward random customers with $20 off their purchase or deli meat and cheese “on the house.”
Walmart, which is building a Neighborhood Market store at Rock Creek Road and 36th Avenue NW, didn't respond to an email request for comment.