Farmer’s Market overhaul gets underway as Chestnut Hill’s gourmet food scene prepares to expand

Construction work hasn’t even begun yet on Bowman Properties’ project at 8200 Germantown Ave., and the grocery store-retail-condo plan is already having an effect on business in Chestnut Hill.

The owners of the Chestnut Hill Farmer’s Market are revamping their business, located behind their also recently-redone Chestnut Hill Hotel, around an updated theme and layout that will nearly double the number of vendor spaces. They’re also rebranding the space as MARKET.

During the time the Bowman project was making its way through the approvals process, Eileen Reilly was the retail recruiter for the Chestnut Hill Business Improvement District. Now, she is working for Ron and Abby Pete, the market’s owners, on the revamp.

By seeing the vendor market as a business incubator, Reilly said she hopes to draw in businesses that might not be ready for a storefront but who want to get a start in Chestnut Hill. The first of the new-concept spaces, an artisanal chocolate maker called The Painted Truffle, is finished and will open soon.

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The overhaul is being done at least partly in response to a planned The Fresh Market location. The upscale grocery store will anchor the 8200 Germantown development. The 20,000 square-foot space will carry fresh produce and specialty items.

The Farmer’s Market had already taken somewhat of a hit from Weaver’s Way, when the cooperative food market opened its storefront at 8424 Germantown Ave. It’s also open to the public, giving shoppers yet another place to pick up both everyday items and specialty, locally-sourced and artisan food goods.

And the 8500 block of Germantown Avenue alone offers a smorgasbord including Omaha Steaks, the Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop, Penzey’s Spices and the new A Taste of Olive.

Officials at Bowman Properties have been reluctant to discuss specific timelines for demolition, but it likely won’t begin until at least January. The site and its adjoining parking lot have been used a few times for community social events, such as last weekend’s Taste of Chestnut Hill.

But even before The Fresh Market breaks ground, Chestnut Hill shoppers do not want for places to buy pink sea salt, nor kale, nor handcrafted chocolates, nor Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Bread Mix. There’s already some redundancy, and it’s unclear what the effect of a successful Fresh Market will be.

“I’m trying very hard to make it complementary, not overlap. If I’m doing my job well, the new MARKET will draw the Fresh Market shopper,” Reilly said. “If Weaver’s Way hit the Farmer’s Market, and they suffered a loss in sales, then without planning, what’s going to happen with The Fresh Market coming directly across the street?”

The Bowman project will include the market and 6,000 square feet of retail storefronts along the avenue, topped by 14 luxury condos. A row of townhouses at the rear, fronting Shawnee Street, would complete the Bowman plan.

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