The social media team at The Grove put out a Facebook teaser that a national coffee chain and national grocery store were coming to their ever-expanding property this year.
As far as a national coffee chain, well, we’d be shocked if it wasn’t…wait for it….Starbucks.
But, a new national grocer?
Now that is intriguing.
So, naturally, because this is Wesley Chapel and everyone seems to go ga-ga for anything new coming to town, the Facebook post exploded with people using ALL CAPS and multiple exclamation points to demand that their choice be the one, ordering The Grove to make it so and seemingly ready to fight anyone who disagreed.
And, that (of course) were just the Trader Joe’s fans!
Some cast their votes/begged for their favorite and made predictions, while others — transplants from other states, we’re guessing — clamored for their favorite grocers from their hometowns in the Midwest and Northeast.
More than 350 comments rolled in, and we read every one of them, and the winner — if the locals were allowed to make the choice — was Trader Joe’s.
Uhhh, we mean TRADER JOE’S OR BUST!!!!!!
That’s no surprise, of course. When we ran a similar poll on our Facebook page, asking what should replace the old Sweetbay on Bruce B. Downs Blvd. in New Tampa, Trader Joe’s trounced the field — although, ahem, we don’t recall anyone threatening to move away if it wasn’t a Trader Joe’s.
The Grove post was a mishmash of grocery store debate, which led us to wonder what could be coming.
PUBLIX: The obvious, predictable choice, even though the Publix on the corner of S.R. 54 and BBD is just down the road. But, since when has having a nearby location mattered to Publix? Heck, in New Tampa, you can throw a BOGO bag of lettuce from the Cross Creek Blvd. location at Morris Bridge Rd. and hit the New Tampa Blvd. at BBD store.
Besides, the Hollybrook Plaza Publix is going to relocate to the east one of these days back (near the Walmart), creating some additional distance from the new store in The Grove.
Here’s the thing, though — while we all love Publix, it’s still just Publix. And it’s literally everywhere.
Does it really fit the fresh, hip new energy coming from The Grove, even though one could argue that a Publix chicken tender sub trumps fresh, hip new energy any day, and we wouldn’t necessarily disagree?
However, you know what’s hipper than Publix? A new Publix, like the prototype store that opened in December on Gandy Blvd. in South Tampa.
The 48,000-sq.-ft. store has two floors, with a large dining area on the second floor. It has a fresh, cleaner design that seeks to modernize the usual Publix.
There are self check-out lanes, lots of grab-and-go fresh foods, a free-standing deli, two grocery pickup spots and drive-through service at the pharmacy, according to progressivegrocer.com.
There’s also a Publix Aprons Cooking School kiosk located in the center of the new store.
While the Gandy location is a prototype, landing the first actual “new” Publix would give off lots of that exciting energy The Grove developer Mark Gold prides himself on generating.
WHOLE FOODS: The popular and pricey organic grocery chain, headquartered in Austin, TX, and now owned by Amazon, was mentioned by more than a dozen Facebook commentors.
Whole Foods would certainly fill a void left by Earth Fare, Wesley Chapel’s first, albeit ill-fated, organic grocer, which shut down after less than a year in existence in 2019 and is now a Total Wine & More (see pg. 34).
Today, there are no large organic grocers in the area — although Nutrition Smart on BBD is a nice, smaller option — and Whole Foods would no doubt be a perfect fit in an area that still clamors for family-friendly, fresh organic offerings. It also fits The Grove’s vibe better than just about any other option.
TRADER JOE’S: This would be a home run for Gold, although also a tough get, but as made clear by the Facebook comments of more than 50 posters, by far the most popular one.
Wesley Chapel, New Tampa and Carrollwood wanted a Trader Joe’s so badly a few years back that there was a campaign to petition the store online in the hopes of landing a location. Hillsborough County commissioners even got involved in the Tampa efforts.
But alas, nothing. New Tampa has since added a Sprouts, an Aldi and it appears a Lotte Super Market is coming as well. Trader Joe’s still has just its location on Swann Ave. in South Tampa.
Could Wesley Chapel break through and succeed where New Tampa didn’t?
IT BETTER OR WE’RE MOVING!!!
WEGMANS: You think we have a lot of Northeasterners living here in Wesley Chapel? Consider this: Wegmans received more online interest than Publix, Aldi and Sprouts combined.
In fact, the Wegmans discussion spun off into its own little debate. We half expected someone on the thread to start a Wegmans podcast.
Wegmans, based in Gates, NY, has a large organic food selection, a hot food bar and really, really happy employees, making some transplants downright misty-eyed in the comments talking about the store.
Wegmans has a pretty impressive resume, being named the best or favorite grocery store in the country by Food Network, Consumer Reports subscribers and marketforce.com.
Apparently, new openings draw thousands willing to wait in lines.
Janette Vazquez Driesslein used many exclamation points in pleading for a Wegmans, and commented that when she moved to Florida in 2004 she reached out to Wegmans about moving stores here. “Here we are almost 20 years later and nope. So, sadly, I think it’s pretty unlikely.”
Janette, we agree. Wegmans stores generally only come as far south as North Carolina, and don’t appear to have any plans to expand here.
KROGER: Some transplanted Midwesterners have a soft spot for Kroger, and while the chain has no Florida locations, a May announcement that the chain is beginning deliveries from a new fulfillment center in Tampa at least gives reason for hope, right?
If you love Kroger that much, for a $9.95 fee, you can order your groceries right off the company’s website or app.
As for Kroger coming to The Grove? Probably not. But, stores in Florida could be in the future.
THE OTHERS: Judging by some of the passionate responses, everyone has their favorite grocery store. Thank goodness the Piggly Wiggly folks didn’t show up en masse, or there might have been an actual online brawl.
Some others that were mentioned more than once in the grocery thread include the three-location, family-owned Detwiler’s Farm Market based in Sarasota, Texas-based H-E-B, which has a cult-like following, Sprouts, Fresh Market and yes, even another Aldi, which would be ironic because the location on S.R. 56 was originally approved to be built near The Grove.