a community newspaper serving western Albemarle County

Harris Teeter Opens “Greenest” Grocery on East Coast in Crozet

ht-skylightsCrozet moved to the forefront of the environmentally-sustainable grocery store movement May 6 when Charlotte, NC-based Harris Teeter opened its most energy-efficient store in the Blue Ridge Shopping Center on Rt. 250. It is the first Harris Teeter store to meet LEED “green building” standards.

After U.S. Environmental Protection Agency representative Keeley Whitman presented a “Green Chill Partnership” Award to Harris Teeter official Michael Shepherd, recognizing the store’s sophisticated and super-efficient refrigeration system, store employees snipped a symbolically green ribbon with a large bow to open the way to the doors. A crowd of about 200 waited for a chance to see the new facility and be among its first customers, each of whom was given a free reusable shopping bag.

Harris Teeter communications director Jennifer Thompson told the crowd that 82 percent of the waste generated by the construction of the store has been successfully recycled and that the store itself was made of 38 percent recycled materials. The Crozet store uses 50 percent less water than the average Harris Teeter store, she said, and the store’s refrigeration system and the long stretch of frosted skylights over the check-out counters means the store’s total energy use is 25 percent less than the average grocery store’s.

Michael Shepherd of Harris Teeter accepts the “Green Chill Partnership” Award presented by Keeley Whitman from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Michael Shepherd of Harris Teeter accepts the “Green Chill Partnership” Award presented by Keeley Whitman of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Whitman praised Harris Teeter for being a founding members of the Green Chill Partnership. “They are doing this voluntarily,” she pointed out. The Crozet store is only the third in nation to achieve Gold Level certification for its refrigeration system, she said, and the first such store in the eastern U.S. Refrigeration produces half a grocery store’s environmental impact, Whitman said.

Christopher Adair-Toteff of Charlottesville, who described himself as a longtime fan of Crozet Pizza, was poised with a cart in front of the ribbon, ready to be the first official shopper. Adair-Toteff is regular shopper at the Harris Teeter in Hollymead, but said he would be coming back to the Crozet store. He was shopping for items to donate to the U.S. Post Office’s annual nonperishable food drive, which is being held Saturday, May 9. He bought six boxes of Macaroni and cheese and four boxes of spaghetti, plus some personal items. But the actual first register ring sounded for John O’Connor of Crozet, who bought a bottle of diet Pepsi. The store stocks more than 40,000 items, Thompson said. It’s also the first Harris Teeter store to carry Boar’s Head meats.

“It’s a great store,” said Adair–Toteff, surveying the spic-and-span gleam of the store and the tightly and orderly stocked shelves. “I’m coming back. People are really friendly. It’s nice. I like the environmental stuff.”

Don Wagner of Great Eastern Management Company, the owner of the Blue Ridge Shopping Center, sketched the history of the company’s 22-year effort to get a grocery store at the location. There were the travails of dealing with changing Albemarle County officials and changing county rules, he said, but “the single most important thing has been the huge support from the western Albemarle community. We have had more public support for this project than for any other project I have been involved with in 32 years.” He cited a petition drive mounted by Crozet-area residents in the 1980s to oppose the possibility of a store, which attracted 167 signatures, he said, and sparked a counter-petition drive that drew 1,387 signatures in support of a store. He mentioned Crozet’s Fran Witt and former sheriff George Bailey of Ivy, now both dead, as steadfast supporters who he wished could have seen the opening day.

Wagner said BB&T bank will be locating in the shopping center and although efforts are underway to sign tenants for the five retail spaces in the new building opposite the Harris Teeter store, no official announcement about what businesses might be coming is possible yet.

Harris Teeter President Fred Morganthal, on hand for the occasion, told the Gazette, “We’re excited to be here. We do a sweepstakes and at the first one we did I met a couple from Crozet who told me we needed to have a store in Crozet. ‘No offense,’ I said, ‘where’s that?’ So I did my homework and we got to work on it.”

Store Director Eddie Lawhorne, who was raised in Charlottesville and also opened the  Hollymead store for the company, told the crowd, “We will strive to provide you with the best customer service. At Harris Teeter, we are committed to the communities where our associates live.” Besides making donations to local charities, he noted that the company donated more than 3.2 million pounds of food last year in the eight state where it has stores.

The store has hired 60 employees from Crozet and Charlottesville, he said. Thompson said the company is very serious about being a good citizen in Crozet and is planning to make contributions to the Crozet Volunteer Fire Department and to support teams in Peachtree Little League.

Harris Teeter employees gathered for the ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday morning.

Harris Teeter employees gathered for the ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday morning.

 

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6 Comments

  1. Thanks for the coverage! Looking forward to going there tonight!

  2. I hope anyone affiliated w/ UVA goes onto HT’s corporate website to advocate for them allowing the Crozet store to honor the UVA student, fac, staff discount. The two stores in C’ville honor the discount …. but I was told Crozet asked corporate if they could do the same and corporate said “no.”

  3. Tell the Crozet Harris Teeter What You Think About VIP Treatment for Hybrids

    The Crozet Harris Teeter store is very nice as you so aptly described in your article. However, the “green” store comes with a large dollop of serious energy efficiency on the one hand, and outright absurd political correctness on the other. Imagine our surprise when our dentist joked about the fact that the Crozet Harris Teeter parking lot contained VIP parking for hybrids. I thought it was a joke. It wasn’t.

    Now I am a loyal email reading, coupon toting Harris Teeter shopper. But let me get this straight. A person who bought or borrowed a hybrid has seniority over me in my supermarket just because he has a hybrid. What if his second car is perish the thought) an SUV? What if mine is a bicycle? (I know, 250 isn’t the greatest bicycle lane in the world, but still).

    Political correctness is alive and well in Charlottesville: Crozet may be a different story. If you have grown weary of the Political Correct knee jerk goofiness of Charlottesville, voice your opinion in good ole Crozet. You will find a sympathetic ear from the local Harris Teeter management and staff at all levels. Harris Teeter corporate may be down right inane in its pursuit of silly greenie symbolism such as a hybrid VIP parking spot; but good old fashion common sense is alive and well in our beloved Crozet.

    Let your voice be heard.

  4. Re: Hybrid VIP Spots

    Is it absurd political correctness or goofiness to have the bike rack closer to the front door than the VIP spots or any other parking spot? No, maybe Harris Teeter is just trying to encourage what they see as positive behavior. To me common sense means making thoughtful decisions like riding your bike, driving your SUV, or walking to the IGA instead of going to Harris Teeter at all. Decisions like these are not “silly greenie symbolism” but real actions that can have a positive impact on our community.

  5. If there’s one thing the new shopping center definitely does not need, it’s another stupid bank. Is there some kind of rule that says every shopping center has to have a tiny non-descript bank in it? Drives me crazy.

  6. A few observations on the store, the article and comments: I’ve been to the new store twice, and I didn’t notice the hybrid spots because I was too busy figuring out why the parking lot is so small and completely devoid of traffic control for egress ! This will be compounded, or perhaps rectified, when the adjacent shopping center opens for business.

    Also, waiting to turn onto 250 and gazing at the landscape gave me an eery “where am I?” feeling. These times, they are a changin’. Back on topic, I agree that hybrid VIP parking seems like good PR and little else.

    As for the store, I was a bit taken aback by the fact that the deli (one of my main wishes for a Crozet grocery) is Boars Head only. Overall, the prices are certainly give and take. I’ll be taking advantage of the loss-leaders (buy 2 get 3 free, etc), and making the shorter drive to Great Valu for certain staples — they’re cheaper in many instances. One surprise was the savings on certain pharmacy items vs Parkway and unavailable at the Dollar store.

    Perhaps the BB&T bank mentioned in the article is simply the relocation of the current BB&T in the Great Valu center?

    Still, it’s bittersweet. I can’t imagine Crozet without Great Valu, but then I never imagined Crozet without Crozet Foods where the P.O. is now. I also recall how a Walmart decimated the main street in my parents’ small SW VA hometown.