Written by: Rick Press
When you’re a grocery store named after a wee character from English folklore, size matters.
Fort Worth’s newest Tom Thumb, which opened Friday in the WestBend shopping area just east of University Drive, is about one-third the size of the chain’s typical store (South Hulen Street, for instance). But a quick visit to the cozy new market Sunday proved good things do come in small packages.
The emphasis at this “specialty” store is on expanded prepared food and deli areas, plus fresh and organic produce. That’s the first thing you notice as you enter the store, which will likely play well to the grab-n-go crowd.
But there is also a strong selection of meats and seafood at the counter in back. And, unlike a lot of specialty and boutique grocery stores, this tinier Tom Thumb still has all the staples in tightly organized aisles. (No second or third trips to a big-box store for name-brand soft drinks and cereal required.)
The aisles even have local street names, which gives it a neighborhood market vibe. For example, Aisle 1, or Forest Park Blvd., is where you’ll find bulk foods, cereal, sugar, spices, etc. There’s also University Drive and Vickery Boulevard, among others.
An expanded wine selection is smartly displayed at the front of the store, as is an in-store Starbucks, which is scheduled to open Wednesday, according to service manager Wanda Baylor.
(Of course, there’s a Starbucks across the street next to the Apple Store, and Ascension Coffee, a popular Dallas coffee shop, is slated to open in WestBend facing the Trinity River soon.)
Tucked back from University Drive and hidden a bit by The Silver Fox steakhouse, this Tom Thumb is located in the space of the former Fresh Market, which closed in May.
Albertsons, which owns Tom Thumb, also purchased two other former Fresh Markets in Dallas and is converting those as well. “Tom Thumb has had great success with smaller-format stores,” said Dennis Bassler, president of the Southern Division of Albertsons, in a statement earlier this year. “We look forward to serving our customers in these new neighborhoods.”
The WestBend Tom Thumb will be about three miles from an “urban” Tom Thumb expected to open early next year in the Left Bank shopping center at the base of the West Seventh Street bridge, the Star-Telegram’s Bud Kennedy reported in September. That store will be a two-story, 53,000-square-foot “urban concept” grocery.
Both of those Tom Thumbs join a very competitive and diverse grocery store market in Fort Worth with Central Market, Trader Joe’s and the city’s first Whole Foods not far away. Early next year, Dallas favorite Eatzi’s Bakery & Market is expected to open in the former Chili’s space across University Drive from the WestBend Tom Thumb. And then there’s Sprouts, Aldi, Kroger, Target, Wal-Mart and more.
But this specialty Tom Thumb seems to fit nicely between the big markets and the gourmet groceries. (Did we mention Dean & DeLuca, new sponsor of the annual Colonial golf tournament, is actively looking for a space in Fort Worth, too?)
As for where Tom Thumb got its name, just in case you were wondering, the company describes it this way:
“Back in 1948 two Dallas friends with family roots in the grocery business became intrigued with a new shopping concept. The men were J.R. Bost and Bob Cullum. The new concept was called ‘supermarkets.’ Together they bought a small local chain and for the first few years worked nights and weekends to upgrade the selection, quality and overall shopping experience. They made sure that, despite their small size, they could compete against the national chains. This eager customer service became represented by a friendly little cartoon figure in a grocer’s apron, the still instantly recognizable Tom Thumb logo.”