Don't get me wrong, I'm pleased to hear that a 28,000-square foot Fresh Thyme will open in the third phase of Mandel Group's The North End development on Pleasant and Water Streets, but it's yet another grocery store clustered together in the northeast edge of Downtown.
According to its website: "At Fresh Thyme Farmers Markets we believe you shouldnâ€™t have to give away the farm to feed your body nutritious food. Weâ€™re on a mission to improve the way our communities eat by offering fresh and healthy food at amazing values â€“ all in a vibrant and fun shopping environment, with smiling friendly faces. Our stores donâ€™t follow traditional grocery store design, nor do they have tall aisles or glitzy fixtures. In fact, our stores are so simple and easy to navigate that we donâ€™t number our aisles or hand out store maps. We believe shopping for fresh and healthy food should be easy and enjoyable."
Fresh Thyme is slated to open in 2015, according to the website. It is expected to be one of 23 stores opening in the Midwest, and one of two in Wisconsin. The other will be at Bluemound and Calhoun in Brookfield.
As someone who works Downtown, this doesn't do me much good. Sure, I can pop in there with my car on the way in or out of work â€“ though I can already do that at three Pick 'N Saves and a Whole Foods that are along my daily commute. (And Glorioso's and Sendik's are just short detours.)
But what Downtown needs is a shot of adrenaline in the heart and I think a store like this in, say, the Grand Avenue â€“ I'm pretty sure there's some space available in the Plankinton Arcade â€“ or with some movie theaters above it on that long-empty lot on the corner of 3rd and Wells would be great.
Folks living Downtown could walk â€“ sales of those wheeled shopping carts everyone had when I was growing up would skyrocket â€“ and the thousands of folks who work in the City Center could pop over for lunch or to pick up snacks or a steak to toss on the grill for dinner.
I'm sure Fresh Thyme has done its research, but why am I skeptical that a location within a cantaloupe's toss of both Metro Market and the East Pointe Pick 'N Save is the best place for a new grocery store in the Downtown area?
And it's not all that far from another Pick 'N Save on Humboldt and North.
It's a great idea and is one that I've heard in almost every neighborhood in Milwaukee. If you want more retail of any kind, you need more residents. Grocery in the Grand Ave is also a great idea - one that would work better with even more residents living on Wisconsin Ave. Increase density ----> increase demand.
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