Mom's Organic Market, a Maryland-based chain, is planning a new Center City grocery at 34 S. 11th St. in Philadelphia's new East Market development.
Like a more intimate Whole Foods fit into a Trader Joe's-sized 16,000 square-foot space, Mom's is designed to help draw the young and retired professionals to the four-acre block of planned new and renovated stores, apartments, offices, bars and restaurants bounded by Market, Chestnut, 11th, and 12th Streets.
East Market's investors include National Real Estate Advisors L.L.C., a Washington-based manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers' pension plan, plus local investors Joss Realty Partners, Young Capital L.L.C., and SSH Real Estate.
Mom's is the project's first retail tenant.
"It's important for us to get a grocer," said Daniel Killinger, East Market's development director. Especially a higher-end organic grocer: "Their mission is right in line with our target market, people who live, work, and shop here."
Plus some who drive: The store, besides its loading dock and freight elevator, will have 55 free shopper parking spaces in a garage.
Mom's is slated to open when renovations are done a year from now, in a former warehouse most recently used by Family Court. The developers also plan to turn the upstairs into 160,000 square feet of offices.
This will be Mom's second Philadelphia-area store, following a Lancaster Avenue location in Bryn Mawr's Rosemont section that opened last winter.
"They are seriously organic. It has a very nice selection of organic produce," said Bryn Mawr shopper Beverly Schwartz. "It has packaged meats, but it doesn't have a butcher area like Whole Foods, and the lunch counter is limited. If they expand those, it will be great competition."
The chain has 12 stores in the Washington area, mostly in the suburbs. "Bryn Mawr was our first store outside the Washington-Baltimore area, and it's been fantastic - our best opening ever," said Mom's chairman Scott Nash, who says he founded the business in his mother's garage in 1987.
Mom's includes a Naked Lunch counter, serving fresh juices, kale and spinach salads, and dishes based on black beans, brown rice pilafs, and yams.
"Everything custom-steamed and 100 percent organic. It's a bargain - a pound and a half, two pounds, for $9," Nash said. The store promises local produce like minimally processed milk from Trickling Springs dairy in Chambersburg, plus free electric-car charging, "sustainable seafood," lightbulb and phone recycling, and other green amenities.
Nash said Mom's fits into the Philadelphia organics market between neighborhood independents and supermarket-size Whole Foods. Mom's vice president of operations, Eric Yetta, used to work for Trader Joe's, which Nash said used its first Philadelphia stores as a "practice run to get into New York."
Nash said Mom's seeks to underprice what Whole Foods or Wegmans charge for similar items, while acknowledging you can buy commercial produce for less at Acme or ShopRite, or ethnic markets.
"You pay for what you get," Nash added. "Someone walking into a Lexus dealership won't say, 'But you're more expensive than the Toyota down the road.' It's chichi, but we are also very low-key, no-frills."
As an early tenant, he added, East Market gave his store "a good deal."
Retail real estate broker McDevitt Co., which scouts sites for Urban Outfitters, also represents East Market and helped land Mom's.
"What it offers is exactly the same vision we have" for the development, said Paige Jaffe, a McDevitt site specialist. She said her firm "is in discussions with a range of retailers and restaurants" to fill spaces next to Mom's.