Whole Foods Market, a national health food grocery store that sells organic products, is coming to Wainscott this summer.
Gregg Saunders, the owner of the former Plitt Ford dealership site on Montauk Highway, confirmed that the company has signed a short-term lease to operate a pop-up store on the property.
“I hope they do great,” Mr. Saunders said last Friday afternoon.
Michael Sinatra, a spokesman for the company, said it plans to be open for business between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
“Whole Foods Market’s Northeast Region is proud to announce its plans for the ‘Whole Foods Market Farm Stand’ pop-up venue at 368 Montauk Highway in the Wainscott-area of East Hampton, New York,” Mr. Sinatra said in an email. “During the next couple of weeks, the Whole Foods Market team will be outfitting the former car dealership space and creating a temporary farm stand to service the area through the summer months, offering a variety of fresh produce, specialty items, and more.”
Bob Schaeffer, a Planning Board member who represents Wainscott, said a site plan filed by Mr. Saunders to demolish the building currently on the property and construct a 17,500-square-foot building with a 12,000 square foot basement was approved on April 4. Mr. Saunders’s plan received unanimous approval and there were few members of the public who spoke out against the project, he said.
“I think it’s a good project,” he said. “First of all, that building that’s there is an eyesore and it’s not a very pretty site the way it is. This particular change will be really good.”
Others in the community agreed this week that a grocery store at the location would be a welcome change. Rick Del Mastro, a co-chairman of the Wainscott Citizens Advisory Committee, said the project would be a “vast improvement” over the current “eyesore” at the site. He noted that the committee was concerned about traffic, but viewed the project positively because the business is setting up shop temporarily. That will give the group an opportunity to evaluate the situation this summer and recommend any traffic mitigation.
“Our biggest concern is the traffic, and this will give us an opportunity to have a look at what impact it’s going to have,” Mr. Del Mastro said.
Margaret Turner, the executive director of the East Hampton Town Business Alliance, endorsed the project overall, but also said she was concerned about traffic and about the idea of a “pop up” store, which she said indicates a lack of commitment to the community.
“I think it’s very exciting,” Ms. Turner said. “I’m very, very pleased about it. I personally think it’s a great place to shop. And I think it’s good for us.”
Ms. Turner added that today’s economy isn’t kind to mom-and-pop stores.
“In the real world, I think it’s becoming more and more difficult to keep our businesses to the mom-and-pop stores, which is really unfortunate but it is a reality of living here,” Ms. Turner said. “And I think there will always be a certain percentage of the population that would not want to see this thing come into town. I think it’s a great operation. It’s very well run. I think they offer a good product. And personally I look forward to having it here.”
Mr. Saunders said his desire to put a grocery store at the nearly 2-acre site came from the community, which has been wanting another shopping option aside from Citarella or Waldbaum’s, both in East Hampton Village, he said. He also said he plans to address parking issues after the pop-up store’s trial run is over by embarking on a number of road improvements at the site, including widening the entrance and creating turn lanes.
“Here’s the concern: the traffic is already there, and it already exists,” Mr. Saunders said. “Hello to the Hamptons. It’s either you live with it and that’s what it’s going to be, period. I’ll tell you, if there wasn’t traffic, the store wouldn’t want to locate here.”
When the new building is eventually completed, it will “knock your socks off,” he said. He plans to secure building permits at the end of the summer.
Asked what the next step would be if Whole Foods Market chose not to occupy the space permanently, Mr. Saunders touted his background as a developer and ensured a good business would take root at the property.
“Someone sexy will wind up there,” he said.