CHICAGO — Expansion of The Fresh Market chain to California has been going smoothly, company executives said at an investor conference here Wednesday.

“I'd say we're very pleased with the openings,” said Craig Carlock, president and chief executive officer, in response to a question at the William Blair Growth Stock Conference. “[Consumers] appreciate food out there, and they are receptive to our offering.”

The fast-growing specialty chain, based in Greensboro, N.C., opened its first California location in Roseville last October and its second in Palo Alto last week. It has two more stores planned for Sacramento this year and another planned in Santa Barbara.

Also Read: Fresh Market Rebounds in Q1

Carlock said the chain, which tallies about two thirds of its sales in perishables, is sourcing most of those items within the state of California for its stores there. It also has been successful in relocating experienced employees from other stores to California for the openings, which has smoothed operations, he said.

“Getting employees there and motivated frankly has been easier than we thought it would be,” Carlock said. “We have a base of around 10,000 [employees] to draw from, and we weren't sure how excited people would be to relocate, and they have been very excited.”

The chain is also gearing up to open four locations in Houston that it previously had acquired from Rice Epicurean Market.

Openings this year for The Fresh Market are heavily weighted toward the second half of the year, which will lead to higher pre-opening expenses relative to sales in the fist half, the company explained, but Carlock said he expects a more “balanced” series of store openings in 2014.

Suggested Categories More from Supermarketnews