Wegmans Food Markets Inc., the family-run grocery chain popular for its low prices and wealth of food items, said yesterday it will open in Newton across from The Mall at Chestnut Hill - its third store in Massachusetts.
At 70,000 square feet, the Newton store will be the smallest Wegmans built in a decade, although it’s still larger than many New England supermarkets.
“It is a new design for us, a new concept for us,’’ said Jo Natale, a Wegmans spokeswoman. “It’s a great location in a densely populated area that is close to Boston.’’
In October, the Rochester, N.Y.-based company opened a 138,000-square-foot supermarket in Northborough that is the company’s first in Massachusetts and the largest in New England. Wegmans is building a market of similar size in Burlington.
The Newton store will serve as an anchor for the Chestnut Hill Square project, a complex with 160,000 square feet of shops, offices, and luxury residences that’s being built by developer Stephen Karp and his Newton-based company, New England Development.
The retail portion of Chestnut Hill Square is expected to be completed by fall 2013, according to the development firm.
Douglass Karp, executive vice president at New England Development, said it signed Wegmans after discussions with most of the major grocery chains in Massachusetts.
“It’s a great anchor for the project,’’ Karp said. “We’ve had tons of interest in the site to begin with, and we do think that Wegmans will move the project further ahead.’’
Natale said the design work is still underway, but Wegmans expects to hire about 500 people to work in the Newton store. The Chestnut Hill location will have a market cafe with a large section of prepared foods - one of the hallmarks of the Wegmans operation.
The shopping district along this stretch of Route 9 - which features Bloomingdale’s, The Capital Grille, The Cheesecake Factory, and The Container Store - has struggled in recent years. The Newton Wegmans will be built on the site of the former Omni Foods, which closed in 2006, six years after a fire in an adjacent office and retail complex killed five people.
Across the street is The Mall at Chestnut Hill, which lost some prominent tenants, including jeweler Shreve, Crump & Low and clothing store Talbots. The nearby Atrium Mall has also experienced a number of high-profile store closings, including Williams-Sonoma, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Borders Books and Music. And a Macy’s department store along the shopping corridor shut down earlier this year.
The new Wegmans “will be a fantastic addition that will provide a unique shopping experience to our residents,’’ said Mayor Setti D. Warren of Newton. “It was really unused land. It was a parking lot.’’
Kevin Griffin, publisher of The Griffin Report of Food Marketing, a Duxbury trade publication, said Wegmans has plans to open six or seven stores in a short period of time across New England.
“The one they just opened in Northborough has been a bonanza,’’ he said. “They have been looking at this area for a long time, and once they get their foot in the door, Wegmans is going to kick it open with any opportunity.’’
Before the Northborough store opened in October, more than 25,500 local shoppers signed up online for a discount card good at Wegmans.
Since debuting, the store has added 25 full-time and part-time jobs to its original 625 employees, and it plans to hire about 40 more.
Griffin said Newton is also a good fit for Wegmans. “It’s a signal to the competition that they’re not just going to be on the outskirts of Greater Boston,’’ he said. “Wegmans intends to be smack dab in the middle of it.’’
Even though the Newton store will be small by Wegmans standards, at 70,000 square feet, it’s bigger than most New England supermarkets. A spokeswoman for the Stop & Shop chain said its typical store has 60,000 square feet of space.
Star Market has a 35,000-square-foot site in Chestnut Hill, about a mile from the proposed Wegmans.
The Star Market reopened in 2009 after a redesign to give the store “an open marketplace feel,’’ said Steve Sylven, a spokesman for the company.
Sylven said he welcomes the competition from Wegmans. “In general, competition helps us stay sharp, and ultimately, is good for customers,’’ he stated in an e-mail.
Clarification: Shreve, Crump, and Low left the Mall at Chestnut Hill in 2009 but returned to the area in October after reorganizing and absorbing the location of Chestnut Hill jeweler David & Co.