The rumors are true. Whole Foods Market is coming to Hilton Head Island.
Several Facebook posts Monday night suggested the upscale grocer that specializes in hard-to-find products and "food in its purest state" planned to move into space being vacated by Piggly Wiggly supermarket at Shelter Cove.
A Whole Foods official confirmed those plans Tuesday, saying the new store is expected to open in "mid-2014."
"The community of Hilton Head has been asking us to open a store here for years, and we are excited to be coming to the market," Emily Shively, associate marketing coordinator for Whole Foods Market South Region, wrote in an email.
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The store, which sells natural and organic foods with a focus on products produced locally, will occupy 30,000 square feet at The Plaza at Shelter Cove and employ at least 100 people, according to Shively.
The Whole Foods store would be about three tenths of a mile from the Kroger Marketplace currently under construction. The Kroger store will anchor one end of the new Shelter Cove Towne Centre, formerly The Mall at Shelter Cove
The 87,588-square-foot Kroger will be the largest grocery store on Hilton Head, according to Beaufort County property records and Towne Centre officials. Glynn Jenkins, director of communications for Kroger's Atlanta Division, said the store will open Dec. 11.
Jenkins, who could not be reached by phone, did not respond to questions about whether Hilton Head can support two large grocery stores so close to each other or how Kroger felt about a new competitor.The Whole Foods store would be about 2 miles from The Fresh Market, also a specialty, upscale grocery store. Attempts Tuesday to reach a Fresh Market representative were unsuccessful.
Whole Foods says it welcomes the competition. "We feel competition makes for a better shopping experience for customers, and we can't wait to be there so we can satisfy and delight our new neighbors," Shively wrote.
Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods stores had sales of about $12 billion in fiscal year 2012. It has 364 stores in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. Stores are in Savannah, Mount Pleasant, Columbia and Greenville.
The company reported in July third-quarter earnings of 38 cents per share, which surpassed analysts' expectations, according to Thomson Reuters estimates of 37 cents per share.
Whole Foods Market employs about 76,000 people and has been ranked for 16 consecutive years as one of the "100 Best Companies to Work For" in America by Fortune magazine.
Piggly Wiggly announced Monday it will close its store at Shelter Cove in "approximately two weeks."
"It's sad to see Piggly Wiggly go. For the last 25 years, they've been a great asset not only to Shelter Cove, but to the island," said Realtor Phil Schembra, who along with the grocer were the first tenants in the shopping center in the 1980s.
"They contributed a lot to the community through the charities they support and have been a good neighbor," Schembra said. "It's sad to see them go, but we're fortunate to get an upscale grocer with a spectacular national reputation that will take the shopping experience on this island to a whole new level -- one we've not seen but are ready for."
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.