Durham’s newest Harris Teeter supermarket welcomed customers for the first time at its grand opening Wednesday.
The grocery store chain, which is based out of Matthews, N.C., opened in front of Erwin Mill apartments on Ninth Street. Many customers explored on opening day, tasting the food samples, ordering drinks from the Starbucks inside the store and grocery shopping.
Local business owners and Duke students have said that the new establishment is likely to have a positive impact on the community.
“I definitely will use it a lot because generally when I need to pick up something quickly, I go to Whole Foods,” said senior Amanda Young, who lives in Erwin Mill. “I’ll probably be spending more time at Harris Teeter and not as much at Whole Foods.”
Young said she believed Harris Teeter chose a good location because there are not other student budget-friendly grocery stores within walking distance of campus, given that Whole Foods’ prices deter many students from shopping there.
Some business owners on Ninth Street see the new establishment as a sign of the area’s prosperous future. For example, Charlie’s Pub & Grille currently has a message on its awning that reads “Welcome Harris Teeter.”
“I think it’s great,” said Danielle Rios, general manager and co-owner of Blue Corn Café. “It’ll bring more traffic to this side of town and different options for consumers.”
Rios added that Ninth Street is becoming increasingly connected to downtown Durham due to the newly renovated Main Street bridge.
John Valentine, co-owner of The Regulator bookstore, said that the addition of Harris Teeter on Ninth Street could catalyze stronger infrastructure in the neighborhood.
“Hopefully this means the city will start paying more attention to this side of town,” Valentine said. “Perhaps there will be better lighting, better security and better sidewalks.”
Valentine noted that the positive effects of Harris Teeter’s addition to Ninth Street should not be overstated.
“People are calling it the anchor of Ninth Street,” he said. “But that might be a stretch because there are so many other individual, independent businesses on this street.”
Rios said that she does not think there are any downsides to the new establishment, but she noted that there has been some pushback from Ninth Street business owners.
“A lot of people are putting a lot of energy into negativity and I’m not sure as to why,” she said.
Rios said it is possible for a corporate business and small businesses to be “harmonious and symbiotic” in a neighborhood, but she also noted that it is important to remember that Ninth Street is a “local street.”
She said that Whole Foods will remain popular as the dramatic increase in new apartments in Erwin Mill will mean that both the existing and new grocery stores will have plenty of business.
“Harris Teeter is a corporation—they clearly ‘did their homework’ and identified a market here,” she said.
Danna Jones, communication specialist for Harris Teeter, noted that the chain is familiar with Whole Foods and has successfully competed against them for several years in other locations in the Triangle area, throughout North Carolina and outside of the state.
“We have enjoyed getting to know our customers in Durham and we are excited about the grand opening of our new store,” Jones wrote in an email Wednesday. “We look forward to establishing a new relationship with the surrounding neighbors.”
Jones also mentioned the presence of a hot food bar, salad bar, cheese and pizza kiosk and bread kiosk in the store as well as an extensive wine department, a walk-in beer cooler, a Fisherman’s Market, a service meat case and a Farmer’s Market produce section.
Young speculated that many students will likely shop at Harris Teeter for its relatively affordable prices, but still frequent the Whole Foods hot bar for lunch and dinner because of its comparably convenient location.
Rios said that she plans to go to Harris Teeter within the next week to introduce herself to the management and welcome them to Ninth Street.
“I’ve been here 17 years, so I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs,” she said. “I can’t wait to see what happens.”