GENEVA – As the new Fresh Thyme organic grocery store gets ready to open this week at 2000 S. Randall Road, Geneva, employees were busy Feb. 4 putting the finishing touches on filling the shelves, bins and displays, placing price stickers and generally hustling.
Near the front door, pineapples and mangos flanked exotic pink dragon fruit.
Blocks of gourmet chocolate – about double the size of a Chunky candy bar – were wrapped and ready for snacking or shaving as a garnish.
Stacks of macaroons, scones and cookies were baked and ready for the taking.
The antipasto salad bar was empty, as were shelves where the 15 varieties of fresh breads will go.
These would not be filled until closer to the ribbon-cutting Feb. 5, followed by shopping from 4 to 7 p.m., and then the official opening at 7 a.m. Feb. 6, store manager Rich Geib said.
This is the 10th Fresh Thyme store to open in Illinois in five years, the 77th in the U.S., Geib said.
The store is a full-service grocery, but it brings service and more variety to a new level, Geib said.
For example, customers will be able to use a machine to slice their own bread. Customers will have hundreds of self-service bins to choose items from taffy to malted milk balls.
Fresh Thyme will not only feature hot food to go – roasted chicken is popular – but 13 types of sandwiches and a variety of salads for pickup. It also will have the fermented tea kombucha on tap, as well as a bar for smoothies and 17 types of fresh juice, Geib said.
In a corner of the front of the store is an area where people can sit with their laptops and work.
One of the big draws for Fresh Thyme is the meat section, which features 25 to 30 types of sausage, he said.
“If you want a brat or a chicken sausage or an Italian sausage, we make it all,” Geib said. “Anything from basil and parmesan sausage to a spinach and feta sausage. … It’s all made here.”
The store also features chicken breast and ground chicken, grass-fed ground beef, organic ground beef and wild game, such as elk, wild boar and antelope, and 175 varieties of cheese, he said.
A party or home entertaining section offers a variety of hummus and salsa.
The store also offers what it calls a natural living department, featuring vitamins, supplements, body care items and health-related items, such as yoga mats and shakers for protein drinks, he said.
Wednesday is the store’s biggest shopping day because shoppers can still buy the specials ending from the previous week’s sales as well as the new specials that begin that day, Geib said.
Fresh Thyme occupies 30,000 square feet of a former Dominick’s store, with national off-price retailer Burlington in the remaining 40,000 square feet.
Geib has a long background in managing grocery stores, having worked at Dominick’s for 33 years, then four years at Jewel, and now he will be at Fresh Thyme a year in April.
Fresh Thyme is in a competitive market, but Geib said the store will stand its ground.
“Once a customer shops in here, they … will be able to see the offerings we have,” Geib said. “We’re not just a specialty store, but a full service, healthy choice grocery store, loaded with organics in every department, and gluten-free items.”
Geib said he’s done comparison price checks on competitors.
“We are very competitive in price,” Geib said.
While Geib said he could not estimate how many people will come to the soft opening and grand opening, if interest on social media is to be believed, the turnout could be significant.
“I have remodeled stores to re-grand openings. And I’ve done grand openings,” Geib said. “But I can tell you this, there is an anticipation in this community that compares to none that I’ve seen before, anticipating for the store to open, from the community. People calling, showing up, checking on doors. There is a following for when [the] Geneva [store] was going to open on social media. ‘Is it open yet? When is it going to open? I can’t wait for it to open.’”