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Make Mine Gourmet

H-Town's upscale grocery competition heats up with Fresh Market entry (see the video)

The Fresh Market video tour
Goodies galore are stacked sky high in the new West University Fresh Market. Photo by Joel Luks
The Fresh Market video tour
The new Houston Fresh Market has the feel of a European street market. Photo by Joel Luks
The Fresh Market video tour
Colorful bouquets of flowers welcome guests at the entry to Fresh Market.  Photo by Joel Luks

In a flurry of French toast, fragrant flowers and a rainbow array of gleaming produce, Fresh Market opened the doors of its first Texas store,  2617 W. Holcombe Blvd., Wednesday morning to an eager collection of shoppers, media types and the simply curious.

Since announcing its entry to the Houston market in November, Fresh Market has been promoting its nationwide image as a European style marketplace where the emphasis is on high-quality fresh produce, meats and prepared foods. Not true were the rumors that Fresh Market would carry no paper products or soft drinks. We found both in the up-scale grocery that measures just under 23,000 square feet.

Drewry Sackett, in from corporate headquarters in Greensboro, N.C.,  said, "We want to offer our customers one-stop shopping, providing all that they need in our European style market."  She added that Fresh Market is geared for "people who love great food and do a lot of entertaining."

Throughout the store on opening morning, chefs dispensed taste treats of everything from French toast to bacon and sausage to cheeses. 

On this opening morning, strains of Mozart wafted across the colorful vista with sight lines covering the full depth and breadth of the market. Classical music is a tradition throughout Fresh Market's empire that stretches from the east coast, across the south to the Midwest and recently into California. The West Holcombe store is the 135th in the chain.

The Houston move was unique, according to store manager Blake Atkins. "As we expand across the country . . . it just made sense that we move into Texas and we had the ability to open four stores all at one time which is a little bit unusual for us. But we had four great locations."

Throughout the store on opening morning, chefs dispensed taste treats of everything from French toast to bacon and sausage to cheeses. Likewise, everything in the prepared foods section was available for tasting — meatballs, rotisserie chicken salad, Greek salad, meatloaf, pizzas, even sushi prepared daily. If only they were giving samples of the lavish desserts prepared in house each day. The sweets were stunningly beautiful and sorely tempting.

As part of the store's emphasis on freshness, Sackett explained that Fresh Market grinds it own beef each day and what doesn't sell by the end of that day is sold to restaurants or donated to food kitchens.

Three more Houston locations are scheduled for opening in the coming weeks with 12516 Memorial Dr. launching July 24, the 3745 Westheimer location at River Oaks opening Aug. 7 and the Tanglewood location at 5016 San Felipe set to open Aug. 21. They are located at the sites of previous Rice Epicurean Markets.

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