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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Whole Foods Market developing location for Nashua

NASHUA – Whole Foods Market could finally be on its way to the Gate City.

Rumors about the natural-food store chain opening a location in Nashua have lingered for years, but a statement on Friday from Heather McCready, a public relations manager for Whole Foods, was the first confirmation from the company that was it was looking to open shop in the city.

“Whole Foods Market is in the process of developing a location in Nashua,” McCready wrote.

The company declined to release more information, such as where it’s looking or the timetable for opening a store. It would be New Hampshire’s first Whole Foods.

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau also confirmed Friday that Whole Foods is working to develop a Nashua location. She said the company has been looking at a few sites, but declined to comment on where.

“We’re hopeful that they find a location that will work for them, and the city stands ready to support them if they do,” she said.

City Planner Robert Houston said Whole Foods hasn’t filed any applications for building or land-use permits, something company officials would need in order to move to Nashua.

Lozeau said she doesn’t know when plans for the Nashua location would come together and that the company likely doesn’t, either. These kinds of projects, she said, are all about timing and location.

One location that won’t house the market is the former Building 19 site at 420 Amherst St., owned by AS-VR Realty, of Londonderry.

AS-VR Manager Edward Gordon said Friday that he approached the real-estate brokers for Whole Foods six months ago in hopes of bringing the company to his retail location but was told it was working on developing a different site. Gordon declined to give more information.

City Economic Development Director Tom Galligani said Friday that he has heard the store is coming, but hasn’t spoken with company representatives.

Galligani said his department sometimes works as a liaison for companies, real-estate brokers and the city to help bring in new businesses, but that the city isn’t focused on seeking out retail companies such as Whole Foods.

Instead, the department works to attract companies that will support the community in more “meaningful” ways, such as technology and manufacturing firms, he said.

Still, Galligani said he isn’t surprised to see companies such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods coming to the Gate City. The Nashua location for Trader Joe’s will open at 8 a.m. Monday at 262 Daniel Webster Highway, moving across the border from Tyngsborough, Mass.

“Retailers are naturally attracted to Nashua, given its tax-advantageous location near the Massachusetts border,” he said.

Lozeau said Nashua is able to draw businesses because of its large population base and proximity to surrounding communities.

Galligani said he has been following the company’s plans to come to the Gate City for years.

Three or four years ago, Nashua was listed on the Whole Foods website as an upcoming location, he said, but it was removed from the list as the company curtailed expansion and new store openings because of the economy.

About nine months ago, Galligani said he noticed Nashua was once again listed on the Whole Foods website as a coming location.

The closest Whole Foods stores are in Andover and Bedford, Mass.

The supermarket chain, founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, has more than 310 stores in 38 states, as well as Canada and England. It’s the ninth largest food and drugstore chain in the U.S.

Danielle Curtis can be reached at 594-6557 or dcurtis@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Curtis on Twitter (Telegraph_DC).