Highest of the Whole Foods

The new Whole Foods store in Frisco has the highest elevation, more than 9,000 feet, in the chain. Photo/Whole Foods

The new Whole Foods store in Frisco has the highest elevation, more than 9,000 feet, in the chain. Photo/Whole Foods

New grocery store in Frisco highest in the Whole Foods chain

Projected $950,000 in tax revenues for Frisco

by Allen Best

FRISCO, Colo. – At 9,197 feet in elevation, the new Whole Foods Market in Frisco is highest among the chain’s 387 stores.

According to a Facebook posting, the new store also has toilet plungers made from ski poles, and old skis and snowboards have been pressed into new service as signs.

Less rare, perhaps, but still unusual is the dedicated room for mothers who want to nurse infants in private.

For the town government, Whole Foods is expected to be a virtual ATM. Town officials project the store will deliver $950,000 annually in sales tax revenues. This compares to the 2014 projected sales tax revenues of $6.4 million drawing on Wal-Mart, Safeway and dozens of other smaller stores.

Jocelyn Mills, the planning director in Frisco, says that town has no special plans for the money, but rather a little more juice to existing projects.

“Generally speaking, the increased sales tax revenue will enhance the Town’s ability to provide services to citizens and residents, and projects for the Town—such as improvements to Main Street, continued recreational programming, improvements to the Frisco Adventure Park, continued excellent street infrastructure, and maintenance and special events and marketing, etc.,” she writes in an e-mail.

The store is located on a nine-acre parcel of land is located near the junction of Interstate 70 and Highway 9. It is part of a 26-acre parcel that Frisco and other local governments purchased in 1996. Frisco got 20 acres and dedicated more than half to open space and wetlands and went about figuring out how to monetize the remaining parcel. By 2005, a town committee had recommended a Home Depot, but town residents rejected that idea.

Then, in early 2012, David O’Neil and his development firm, Brynn Grey, proposed the Whole Foods. O’Neil has previously developed the well-regarded Wellington affordable housing neighborhood in Breckenridge and the old Elitch’s Gardens in North Denver before developing affordable housing in Frisco. The planning process took most of 2012 and into 2013.

The new store in Frisco is distinctive in a number of ways.

The new store in Frisco is distinctive in a number of ways. Photo/Whole Foods

The grocery store provides a little less than a third of the 105,000-square-foot commercial project. Two additional buildings, with 22,000 square feet, are to be completed yet this year.

O’Neil says he doesn’t think the demographics of the I-70 corridor have changed appreciably in recent years. Rather, he sees Whole Foods understanding the opportunity of regional resort markets.

Last year, Whole Foods opened a store in Basalt, located 18 miles down-valley from Aspen.

Will Whole Foods cannibalize existing sales tax? Town officials don’t think so.

“We anticipate Whole Foods Market will draw new customers to Frisco (traveling the I-70 corridor) more than taking current customers away from shopping at Frisco’s Safeway,” says Mills. “We will see.”

In Basalt, Mayor Jacque Whitsitt reports she observed a slump at the existing City Market for a couple of months after the Whole Foods opened. “Then it came back with a vengeance,” she says. She believes many shoppers go to both stores.

No tax figures were available from the Town of Basalt.

In the case of Frisco, Whole Foods expects to draw business first from the 66,400 year-round residents in Summit County and adjacent Eagle County west to Edwards, an area commonly called the Vail Valley. Average household incomes are $88,600 in Summit County and $83,700 in the Vail Valley.

Also, the store expects to draw traffic from travelers on I-70. Each year, 15 million vehicles pass by, including one million winter visitors and an equal number of summer visitors, many of them second-home owners and short-term renters.

Founded in 1980, Whole Foods is unlike most other grocery chains in many respects. It has a great selection of organic goods, of course, but also stopped distributing disposable plastic bags in 2008 and began buying wind power.

Mills said that Frisco decided Whole Foods, known for its community engagement, would complement the existing community character.

Now that Whole Food is running trucks on the I-70 corridor to both Frisco and Basalt, will it fill in that donut with a store in, says Edwards? Whole Foods did not respond to an interview request in a timely manner.

But the business press last week noted that Whole Foods is facing stiffer competition from existing grocers, and the stock plunged 19 percent in one day alone.

“Whole Foods no longer gets to float above the brawling, low-margin, ultra-competitive grocery business,” noted CBS Money Watch.

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