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Whole Foods, Krispy Kreme, REI eyeing East Liberty retail strip

Friday, February 09, 2001

By Dan Fitzpatrick, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc., a popular Winston Salem, N.C.-based chain of doughnut-and-coffee shops, is looking at a site in East Liberty.

The location flanks a proposed Whole Foods Market that the Austin, Texas-based organic grocer agreed to in November.

At a kickoff ceremony yesterday for the $6 million Whole Foods store, developer Steve Mosites Jr. said Krispy Kreme has signed a "draft" letter of intent to be included in a proposed 97,000-square-foot retail development to be anchored by Whole Foods, along Centre Avenue.

"They want in," he said.

Local Krispy Kreme franchisee Harold Leininger was more circumspect.

"We are not close to signing any deal with them," he said, adding that Krispy Kreme is much closer to deals in suburban locations such as Cranberry, Monroeville and the area surrounding Century III Mall, in West Mifflin. Leininger, who owns the rights to franchise Krispy Kreme in Western Pennsylvania, expects to have a couple of the popular doughnut outlets up and running by the end of summer or early fall.

In a few years, he expects to have 8 to 10 stores.

Known for its signature Hot Original Glazed doughnuts, "Hot Doughnuts Now" sign and cult-like following, the publicly owned Krispy Kreme has more than 170 stores in 28 states. It currently has one Pennsylvania store, in Scranton.

Its preliminary interest in East Liberty is reflective of the work done by Mosites and developer Molly Blasier, who have been assembling land and buildings along Centre Avenue for the last year and a half. They want Krispy Kreme to be one of several shops in "Eastside," the name given to a proposed Centre Avenue retail strip that would start at South Euclid Avenue and end at the Highland Avenue bridge.

Other possibilities, Mosites said, are Starbucks and REI, a Sumner, Wash.-based outdoor equipment retailer.

Earlier this week, Mosites and Blasier signed an agreement to buy a Yellow Cab station on Centre, giving those developers control of the entire block. They also have control of properties belonging to UPMC Health System, West Penn AAA and the Pittsburgh Parking Authority.

The Whole Foods building, at 5880 Centre, once was a janitorial supply warehouse. Mosites and Blasier purchased it in 1999 for $790,000, hoping to lure Whole Foods.

The country's largest natural foods grocer, Whole Foods mixes basic groceries, an organic farmers market and an emphasis on foods without artificial additives. At the end of last year, the company had 117 stores. The 32,000-square-foot East Liberty store will become the company's 121st store in the first quarter of 2002, when it expects to open.

The company expects to employ 150 at the East Liberty store, Mosites said yesterday.

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