By STEVEN NALLEY
The Greater Starkville Development Partnership is weighing opportunities to bring a specialty food grocery store to Starkville.
Tripp Muldrow, a consultant with Arnett Muldrow and Associates, is working with GSDP on an overall recruitment campaign to address retail leakages, in which potential consumers travel to other cities to satisfy demand. Muldrow worked with the city on its spring 2011 charrette, and he said one of the leakages discovered during the charrette was specialty food.
“We are in the very early stages of exploring specialty food as a component of an overall retail recruitment campaign for Starkville,” Muldrow said. “Currently, Starkville is a strong grocery store destination, and adding to that appeal could be a way to reinforce that role.”
Jennifer Gregory, GSDP vice president for tourism development, said the store concept GSDP seeks may include healthful, largely organic groceries, but Muldrow said specialty foods are broader than that. Gregory said a major franchise such as Whole Foods is not necessarily feasible for Starkville.
“The need for something like that is there, but we don’t have the demographics as far as population and median income to sustain a brand such as Whole Foods,” Gregory said. “It’s the same concept, but just (on) a smaller scale.”
Muldrow said smaller specialty food franchises are also unlikely.
“Any store we look at would be a small format store, and we are not likely to be looking at a franchise as there are very few who fit this description,” Muldrow said. “It is likely that this, along with other retail categories, will be recruited through a grassroots effort.”
It is too early to place a timeline on recruiting a specialty food store, Muldrow said, and further details will be determined in a meeting with the GSDP next week.
At this meeting, Gregory said the GSDP plans to create an inventory of available property.
“That could change, but right now that’s where we’re focusing our attention,” Gregory said. “We think that Russell Street would be an ideal location.”
Gregory said the option to integrate the specialty food store into the Cotton Mills project is not currently on the table.
“We are still trusting that project will materialize,” Gregory said, “but we think an addition to the retail mix on Russell Street would only complement and be complemented by what would materialize with the Cotton Mills project.”
Gregory said she believes students, residents and visitors would offer strong support for a specialty food grocery store.
She said she believes the time is right and the market is ready for such a store in Starkville.
“I can’t say exactly what I hope for, but we are ready to move,” Gregory said. “We are ready to aggressively recruit retail that we think will complement our existing retail mix, and we feel like we have a good idea of what we’re lacking.”