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Meijer confirms it’s an investor in specialty grocer coming to Dayton

Fresh Thyme Farmer Markets CEO Chris Sherrell says his chain is “very well capitalized” for its rapid growth plans that already include two Dayton-area stores and will probably open more locations in the Dayton and Springfield market.

Some of those dollars that are fueling Fresh Thyme’s rapid expansion are coming from Meijer, the Grand Rapids-based grocer-retailer that already has a strong Dayton-area presence — although Fresh Thyme’s CEO said there is no corporate connection between the two companies.

Meijer spokesman Frank Guglielmi confirmed his company is an investor but said, “Meijer has an investment interest only in Fresh Thyme. We are completely separate businesses with completely separate operations.”

Fresh Thyme confirmed in January that it will open 28,000-square-foot stores in 2015: near the Mall at Fairfield Commons in Beavercreek, and on Feedwire Road near Wilmington Pike in Sugarcreek Twp. Each store will employ 80 to 100. Two other new Fresh Thyme locations are scheduled to open in the Cincinnati area in 2014, and two more in the Columbus area in 2015.

The Ohio stores are part of a broader push that will see the Phoenix-based specialty grocer — which was founded in 2012 — open 60 new stores and create 5,000 jobs in the Midwest over the next five years, company officials said.

In an interview with this newspaper, Sherrell said Fresh Thyme targeted the Midwest as a prime region for expansion because of its population density, strong demographics and available real estate.

“And there’s no farmers market (grocery) concept there,” Sherrell said. “We feel we can fill that void.”

The CEO said Fresh Thyme will work with local growers to put fresh vegetables and fruits into its stores, which will also include a butcher shop, a full dairy section, a beer and wine department, and vitamins and supplements.

The chain’s prices are lower than many of its specialty-grocer competitors, Sherrell said. “We are a value-oriented concept — not a discount-oriented, by any stretch, but value-oriented,” he said.

The Fresh Thyme CEO said he expects the company’s Phoenix headquarters to move to the Midwest in the next 12 to 18 months. The headquarters site hasn’t yet been chosen.

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