Kimberton Whole Foods recently completed the expansion of its Douglassville location and longtime customers will immediately notice a more spacious shopping experience.
The organic grocery and health food store took over an adjoining space in the Benjamin Franklin Court shopping center and converted it into an expanded produce section, along with bulk foods, cheeses, organic drinks and grab-and-go meals.
The construction took place in mid-January, and the store was closed for three days as the wall in the former produce area was torn down and the finishing touches were put on the new space, a former flower shop. It grew the store, which first opened in 2007, to 5,700 square feet, increasing retail space by about 45%.
"It took several months to get ready for the transition," said Becca Settle, director of marketing for Kimberton. "They then closed for three days. They did a nice job and moved quickly to get it done."
"The produce section has doubled in size," Settle said. "It was important to us and our customers."
The larger drink area includes several healthy options, including Phoenixville-based Baba's Brew kombucha. The larger case has allowed the kombucha to be sold in larger growler-sized bottles. Further down, Kimberton has expanded its variety of gourmet cheeses, which includes a number of local selections, and prepared meals that were cooked at a kitchen in Chester County.
Toward the back of the section are gluten-free foods along with a bulk foods area.
Shoppers will also notice wider aisles in the original part of the store, along with a larger refrigerated and frozen foods area and a gift area.
Ezra Brett, the company's director of operations, said the expansion was something the customers have been asking for.
"Our customers are really what sustains this and all our core customers believe in the mission," said Brett, whose parents — Terry and Pat Brett — founded the company in 1994. The business has its roots as a farm store that sold organic yogurt in East Pikeland Township, Chester County that opened in 1986.
He said Kimberton Whole Foods is hiring additional workers for the expanded Douglassville location and looks to eventually have a staff of between 16 and 20.
The company also expanded to keep up with competitors such as Giant, Weis, Wegman's and Redner's, which have increased their organic offerings, and Whole Foods Market which has been building up its footprint in Southeastern Pennsylvania in recent years.
"It's not the sole imperative, but it's part of it," Brett said of keeping up with the competition. "There's a demand for (organics). The store at its old size did not support a full product line."
Expansion has been part of Kimberton Whole Foods' plan in the past few years. It opened a 12,800 square-foot location in Collegeville, Montgomery County in 2018, replacing a smaller store.
Kimberton Whole Foods has four other locations, including Kimberton, Chester County; Downingtown, Chester County; Malvern, Chester County; and Ottsville, Bucks County.
According to the company's website, it has a commitment to local farming and the prioritization of organic and fair food. It defines local as being within 100 miles of its Downingtown distribution center because those vendors can decrease their distribution costs and carbon footprints while simultaneously reaching more customers when they partner with Kimberton.