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Staff photo by Mike Pare / Whole Foods has hung its name on the front of the former Earth Fare store on Gunbarrel Road.

Signs are up outside, work is underway inside and hiring is taking place for specialty grocer Whole Foods' second Chattanooga store.

Whole Foods is moving into the space formerly held by Earth Fare on Gunbarrel Road.

A Whole Foods spokeswoman said last week that she did not have an opening date for the store yet. But workers were inside the space readying the location to hold customers.

Also, job listings are appearing on the internet for the store, including posting for a produce team member and produce order writer.

Whole Foods signs are up along Gunbarrel and on the front of the store, which will be on the Target end of the shopping center that also holds Kohl's.

The company's new store will join specialty grocer The Fresh Market and potential rival Trader Joe's on Gunbarrel Road.

A Trader Joe's spokesman said earlier this month that it's in the initial stages of trying to put its first store in Chattanooga.

"We are very interested in bringing a store to the area," said Trader Joe's Public Relations Manager Kenya Friend-Daniel.

Building plans filed with the city of Chattanooga show the Trader Joe's store could go at 2111 Gunbarrel Road, a location which formerly held the AAA Chattanooga insurance agency.

In March, Whole Foods entered into an agreement in U.S. Bankruptcy Court to acquire the assets of the former Earth Fare location in a shopping center owned by Chattanooga-based CBL Properties. Earth Fare Inc. filed for bankruptcy in February.

Amazon-owned Whole Foods agreed to pay $900,000 for the assets of the Gunbarrel location, according to a filing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.

CBL spokeswoman Stacey Keating said that Whole Foods will be "a great addition" to the shopping center just down Gunbarrel from Hamilton Place mall. She said the grocer will complement the remodeled Target and Kohl's stores.

Whole Foods currently runs a market off Manufacturers Road in Chattanooga's North Shore.

Earth Fare, an organic and natural grocery chain, also operated a store in Hixson when it announced suddenly last February that it was closing all 50 of its stores across the country as it searched to find a new owner for the troubled grocery chain.

Earth Fare, based in Asheville, said the store closings were due to its inability to refinance its debt, citing "continued challenges in the retail industry."

However, amid the coronavirus pandemic, grocery stores are one of the few business segments which have seen a surge in consumers.

The Whole Foods market at Two North Shore on Manufacturers Road was originally a Greenlife grocery store starting at that location in 2007 until it was sold in 2010.

Chattanooga grocer Chuck Pruett initially opened Greenlife in 1999 on Hixson Pike in Riverview.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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