There are restaurants, craft breweries, health care, tobacco and Capital One. But one thing covers it all: grocery stores. It’s what you eat, what you spend, what you drink — and it’s likely to be a place you visit at least once a week.
Used to be Richmond thought things were fairly well covered. But Ukrop’s Super Markets left a pang in empty stomachs. In 2013, voters in the Best of Richmond longed for a Wegmans, voting it the business they’d most like to see come to town. Last April, they got their wish, with the decades-old, family-owned chain announcing that it would build a store in the West Broad Marketplace in Short Pump and the Stonehenge Village Shopping Center about a mile west of Chesterfield Town Center mall.
Of course there are Martin’s and lots of Krogers, including a giant Marketplace version where Cloverleaf Mall used to be — and more on the way. There is Whole Foods in Short Pump, which announced plans to move into city limits next year, just down from the Science Museum of Virginia. New to the area, the price-conscious, no-frills Aldi’s is rolling out stores here too.
And that’s not to mention all kinds of choices in smaller grocers, health food stores and corner markets that are improving their operations. What’s next on the agenda are figuring out food deserts and how to get fresh options into underserved pockets of the city that have limited access to transportation.
But what about the booming choices elsewhere? Jeffrey W. Metzger, publisher of the trade journal Food World, thinks the Richmond market has been “overstored” — in other words, there are too many groceries for a market this size.
Which brings us to the latest marketplace news, that there’s a proposed merger of the owners of Martin’s and Food Lion. The chains have a combined 70 stores in the region. These include 47 for Food Lion, which is owned by Belgium’s Delhaize Group, and 23 Martin’s Food Markets, owned by Royal Ahold of the Netherlands.
However it shakes out, the industry always gives Richmond something to talk about.