Tops Friendly Markets has put plans to open a second Orchard Fresh location back on the shelf for now.
The company had said last year it was looking for a place to put a second store by early 2014 at the earliest. But now those plans are on hold.
Tops said the Orchard Park store is doing well and that the company has identified potential locations for future expansion, but that it wants to perfect the concept before growing it.
“We have not changed course at all in regards to Orchard Fresh. This is a new business for us and we are still tweaking and evaluating,” Tops CEO Frank Curci said. “We are still absolutely committed to the format and look forward to continuing the expansion as soon as we feel that we have everything right.”
Orchard Fresh, a small-format, high-end gourmet and specialty food retail shop concept owned by Tops, celebrated its one-year anniversary in Orchard Park last month.
After a busy opening and bustling early sales, Tops announced it would move forward with expansions far ahead of schedule.
It began looking for a second location just five weeks after the first store’s opening, instead of monitoring the store for six months as it had originally planned.
At the time, Curci called Orchard Fresh “a real home run” and said it had “far exceeded” the company’s expectations.
But instead of kicking expansion plans into high gear, Tops is now pumping the brakes.
“Tops is waiting for the right time, location and opportunity for expansion,” said Katie McKenna, a Tops spokeswoman.
The company declined to say exactly what caused the change in urgency, but said Trader Joe’s new Amherst store and Whole Foods’ plans to enter the market had nothing to do with it.
“This decision was made months ago,” McKenna said.
Tops wants to spend time getting things right, making sure it can find the right product mix at the right price point.
“It was such a new concept for Western New York. It has been a learning experience for us, for sure,” she said.
Orchard Fresh is a stand-alone store owned by Tops Friendly Markets. Its upscale, fresh, healthy and gourmet offerings appeal to a more affluent demographic. The Orchard Park store is 18,000 square feet and offers fresh, organic, gluten-free, eco-friendly, vegan and gourmet foods. It also has extensive prepared-food options.