Crozet 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.
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.
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