PHOENIX — Fresh Thyme Farmers Markets, a new retail banner created by veterans of the Sunflower and Henry’s chains, plans to open 47 stores in the Midwest over the next six years, beginning with a site in Mt. Prospect, Ill., opening early next year.

The chain is led by Chris Sherrell, who most recently was president and chief executive of Sunflower Farmers Markets, along with Jim McCloskey, Sunflower’s former chief financial officer, and Brandon Bagley, a veteran of Henry’s, Whole Foods, Wild Oats and Smith’s Food & Drug, who will serve as executive vice president of sales, merchandising and marketing for Fresh Thyme.


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Several sources told SN the venture has financial backing from Meijer, the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based superstore operator, although Fresh Thyme officials declined to elaborate. Meijer officials did not respond to requests from SN for comment.

According to literature distributed to product vendors at the recent Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, Fresh Thyme intends to operate a “farmers market” style store capitalizing on trends toward healthy eating and “transitional” shoppers moving to the natural food channel. Stores will feature an extensive fresh produce department in the middle of the store and service seafood, meat, bakery, deli and prepared-food departments, in addition to bulk foods, natural and organic groceries, vitamins and supplements, and beer and wine.

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A spokeswoman for the chain told SN that while its headquarters is currently in Phoenix, the chain intends to establish offices in the Midwest.

Its growth plans call for eight stores in 2014, nine new stores in 2015 and 10 new stores in each year from 2016 to 2018, in 12 Midwest states (Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee).

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