Fresh Fields seeks a store in Mount Washington

August 11, 1994|By Jay Hancock | Jay Hancock,Sun Staff Writer

Fresh Fields, the fast-growing, Rockville-based chain of natural-foods supermarkets, is negotiating to open a store on the Mount Washington Mill property in northern Baltimore.

The retailer, which has attracted widespread attention for selling organically grown produce and hormone-free meat in 25,000-square-foot stores, is interested in leasing and rehabilitating the mill's forge building off Smith Avenue, said Sam Himmelrich, who leads the mill's owners.

No deal has been signed. But Fresh Fields wants to open a Baltimore-area store by the middle of 1995, said President Mark Ordan.

"We're serious about Baltimore," he said. "We think it's a great market. We wish we had been there already."

Fresh Fields, started in 1991 with a supermarket in Rockville, opened in Annapolis last year and now has 14 locations, including several in the Washington and Chicago areas.

Backed by New York investment bank Goldman Sachs, Washington investment bank Carlyle Group and Baltimore-based mutual fund company T. Rowe Price Associates Inc., Fresh Fields is adding eight or so stores a year.

Typically the chain sets up in affluent suburbs. The stores sell more than 30 kinds of fresh pasta, dozens of kinds of organically grown vegetables, grains such as couscous and quinoa, plus natural deli salads, pastries and other prepared foods. Prices are higher than in conventional grocery stores.

In Baltimore, Fresh Fields would compete against gourmet stores such as Sutton Place Gourmet and grocers such as Giant and Metro.

"Assuming they pick the right location in Baltimore, there's going to be places for them to be successful," said Neil Stern, a partner in McMillan/Doolittle, a retail consultancy in Chicago. "What I'm unsure of is how widespread their appeal is going to be" and how many Fresh Fields stores the Baltimore area could support, he said.

Fresh Fields has no plans to open a second Baltimore-area store, said Mr. Ordan. "We don't plan that far ahead. We always start with one."

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