Whole Foods rendering

A rendering of the Whole Foods at the Gallatin Valley Mall announced on October 15.

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Whole Foods Market will open its first Montana store at the Gallatin Valley Mall where Fuddruckers previously operated, according to a news release from the company.

Demolition on the Fuddruckers building began earlier this week and construction is set to wrap up sometime next fall, according to John Morrow. Morrow is based in Spokane and is one of the mall’s managing partners.

The mall will also be undergoing some redevelopment, according to the release, intended to make it into a “Main Street” retail experience.

Morrow said the redevelopment of the mall will come in phases, with the Whole Foods building being the first phase. Subsequent phases are still being considered but could include outdoor retail and food halls, Morrow said.

“We’re embarking right now on a major planning exercise to really take a hard look at the mall architecturally (and) tenant wise, and market demand,” Morrow said. “What does the market need? What kinds of tenancies do we need to better serve the market?”

Entertainment, outdoor spaces, and “experiential” retail, or paying for an experience as opposed to a product, are all things that are on the radar for the new development, Morrow said.

Medical offices, like a dentist’s office or a walk-in clinic, are also potential prospects for what he called version 3.0 of the Gallatin Valley Mall.

“We’re looking to bring in different types of tenants that will benefit from the draw that Whole Foods offers, and our existing tenants will also benefit,” he said. “And we’re looking for good local concepts.”

There will likely be some kind of demolition of a part of the existing mall involved in one of the phases, Morrow said, but that the goal will be to keep it open and viable for the tenants who already exist.

In mid-June, JC Penney announced that it would be closing 154 stores around the nation, including the Gallatin Valley Mall location. Morrow said that no leases have been signed, but he added that several potential tenants have been identified to fill that anchor space.

“We’re not too eager to start signing leases until we finish this planning effort, because a lot of the planning effort is geared around designing the ideal tenant mix for the market,” Morrow said.

Bozeman’s growth is part of what made it attractive to Whole Foods, the news release announcing the new chain stated. The U.S. Census Bureau has ranked Bozeman as the fastest growing micropolitan city, though it may lose that title if the census happening right now puts Bozeman over 50,000 residents.

“Bozeman’s a dramatically growing market right now,” Morrow said. “What we’re starting to see, all of a sudden, is that major retailers like Whole Foods, they look at Bozeman in that light. Like, ‘hey, this is a great place for us.’”

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Melissa Loveridge can be reached at mloveridge@dailychronicle.com or at (406) 582-2651.

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