News Article | 3/31/2006

Victory snags a gourmet grocery

Even chic urbanites need to eat and fill their pantries, albeit with gourmet food.

Just ask Hillwood, the developer behind the Victory Park residential, retail and office project north of downtown Dallas.

It’s bringing California-based Oakville Grocery to the $3 billion development.

Groceries represent a basic convenience that neo-urban developers like Hillwood know is essential for attracting residents.

“In the creation of a great pedestrian-oriented urban neighborhood, if you want the area to be livable, you have to have the local grocery market,” said Jonas Woods, president of Hillwood Capital.

Oakville Grocery, an upscale specialty store owned by Nevada-based Woodside Capital Parters, will satisfy that demand with prepared foods, coffee and wines, condiments and even special-event catering.

Oakville will move into a 7,000-square-feet space with a 1,600-square-foot patio in The House by Starck and Yoo, a 28-story residential building with 30,000 square feet of retail, which is scheduled to be completed in 2008.

More than 600 residential units are now under construction in several buildings at Victory Park, and residents will begin moving into them early this summer. Plans ultimately call for 4,000 residences there.

The grocer will open during the first quarter of 2008, making it the third grocery store to enter the greater downtown and Uptown markets in recent years.

Two full-service grocers opened last year: Urban Market in the Interurban Building at Jackson Street, and Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market at the entrance to Uptown at North Central Expressway and Hall Street.

Relationships sought

Oakville Grocery comes with a 120-year-old history. The retailer is best known in California for its array of gourmet and “artisan” products utilizing local produce and purveyors.

There are four Oakville stores in California: in Healdsburg, Oakville in Napa Valley, Palo Alto and San Francisco.

At Victory Park, Oakville will offer limited fresh produce, bakery items, a private line of canned goods and an array of imported products, including cheeses and seafood.

“We want to develop relationships with local purveyors, along with selling products from France and England,” said Barbara A. Henderson, regional director over operations and merchandising for Oakville Grocery in the Southwest. “We will offer unique products that are not found in the area.”

Victory Park shoppers also will able to pick up locally made products such as beer from Texas microbreweries, Henderson said.

In North Texas, Oakville Grocer is most similar to Eatzi’s Market & Bakery, a locally popular take-away/dine-in eatery. Eatzi’s sells prepared foods, wine, deli foods, baked goods and some fresh foods. There’s one Eatzi’s in Dallas on Oak Lawn Avenue.

Henderson believes Oakville’s array of products and its well-trained employees will help differentiate it from other grocers that sell high-end gourmet foods.

“I think what we will bring to the market is excitement and education,” Henderson said, adding that Oakville will have wine tastings and food samplings aimed at affluent “foodies.”

The Victory Park grocery will be owned as well as managed by Woodside Capital, which has a license agreement with Oakville Grocery to develop stores in the Southwest.

The company is also searching in Austin, Houston and other areas of Dallas for potential sites, said Michael A. Webb, chairman and CEO of Nevada-based Woodside Capital and a shareholder in Oakville Grocery.

Dallas and Texas’ interest in quality food and its residents’ “sophisticated palates” prompted Woodside’s entrance in the market, Webb said.

Woodside looked at seven other Dallas sites before choosing Victory Park because of “Hillwood’s commitment to making it a truly attractive regional project,” Webb said.

Webb believes Oakville’s location at Victory Park will help it draw shoppers from the Park Cities as well as areas outside Dallas.

‘Loyal following’

Meanwhile, Urban Market has helped create a base of 3,200 “pioneering” residents now living in downtown Dallas, according to Kourtny Garrett, director of marketing for Downtown Dallas.

“For so long it was one of the biggest hurdles,” she said. “Now, we can tell (potential) residents that we have a full-service grocer, not just a little market, within walking distance. It’s a huge hurdle that we’ve been able to conquer. It has also helped to retain our current residential population.”

Manuel Zambrana, owner and operator of Urban Market, said after eight months the market’s grocery and cafe are meeting sales projections, but are not profitable. He believes that will change.

“We have an extremely loyal following,” Zambrana said. “But a lot of people still don’t know we exist.”

Zambrana says that, for some would-be residents, Urban Market is a major draw. “People are telling us that they would never consider moving downtown without a grocery. That’s how important this store is.”

Urban Market has been a boon to the Interurban building that’s now 100% leased, Zambrana said.

“The convenience of having a market adds to the value of the residential,” he said.

Woods believes that Oakville Grocery will help do the same for Victory Park.

“In great urban neighborhoods around the country, you have to have a grocer to work,” Woods added. “That is why we worked so hard to get a grocer in Victory Park.”