GARDEN RIDGE SCALES GREAT HEIGHTS WITH NEW STORE

LEWISVILLE, Texas -- Center Store grocery products, gourmet foods and candies are coming up roses at Garden Ridge.One of the latest forms of category killer -- combining artificial plants, garden supplies, housewares, linens, domestics and lamps on a 120,000-square-foot sales floor -- Garden Ridge also does a respectable job with groceries.With its exposed ceiling, bare concrete and orange-painted

LEWISVILLE, Texas -- Center Store grocery products, gourmet foods and candies are coming up roses at Garden Ridge.

One of the latest forms of category killer -- combining artificial plants, garden supplies, housewares, linens, domestics and lamps on a 120,000-square-foot sales floor -- Garden Ridge also does a respectable job with groceries.

With its exposed ceiling, bare concrete and orange-painted floors and proliferation of soft goods, Garden Ridge looks like a cross between a Home Depot and Linens 'N Things. This unit in a Dallas suburb here is located at the end of a busy power strip mall.

Food at Garden Ridge is positioned to the right of the front door, parallel to the in-store cafe. Although only several hundred square feet are devoted to groceries, their prominent location at the front of the store make them hard to miss. In addition to paralleling the in-store cafe, the food department also wraps around the end of the department, near the entrance to the rest rooms.

When SN visited, two large, rough-hewn wooden fixtures containing three shelves each were piled high with Easter candies from Hershey, Pez, Willy Wonka and other manufacturers. A third table opposite the checkout lanes sported premade Easter baskets for $8.88 that contained toys, games and candy items.

In addition to its seasonal Easter offerings, Garden Ridge also was selling a 5-pack of Wrigley's chewing gum for 99 cents, along with imported Droste chocolate tubes.

About 8 feet on six shelves is devoted to cookies. Brands stocked include Walker's shortbread, and Peak-Freans at $1.99 and $2.59 a box, depending on the variety. Another 4 feet on two shelves is devoted to upscale crackers, including several offerings from Carr's.

There are two 4-foot shelves of pickles and peppers, and one shelf of Lawry's 30 Minute Marinade. Two shelves are devoted to other barbecue sauces and marinades. Another 4 feet of four-level shelving stocks jams and jellies.

Other gourmet offerings at Garden Ridge include Gerolsteiner mineral water, $1.59 a 1-liter bottle; alcohol-free wines; Gourmet Award brand canned mushrooms, crabmeat, snails and artichoke hearts; Olde Cape Cod clam sauce; Eagle Mills bread mix, $2.29 a box; and Antoine's pasta, also $2.29 a 1-pound bag.

Based in Houston, Garden Ridge currently operates 28 stores in the Southeast and South Central regions of the country. According to the company, each megastore has 10 "category-killer" departments. The flagship department is silk florals and artificial flowers.