ST. PAUL — Watching grocery stores spread is usually like watching ice cream melt.
By that standard, Hy-Vee Supermarkets is on a fast boil — on track to have 12 supermarkets in the metro area by the end of next year.
Already, Hy-Vee has become one of the area's biggest supermarket chains in only three years.
"We are thrilled to have Hy-Vee," said Dan Buchholtz, administrator of Spring Lake Park, which will soon have a Hy-Vee at Minnesota 65 and 81st Avenue.
"I think Hy-Vee is being heartily welcomed wherever they go," said Buchholtz.
The Des Moines-based chain launched its invasion of the metro area in 2015 with a store in New Hope. Other stores quickly followed in Oakdale, Eagan, Lakeville, Cottage Grove, Brooklyn Park, Savage and Shakopee.
A Hy-Vee spokeswoman would not answer specific questions about the company's plans, but confirmed by email the fall opening of stores in Robbinsdale and Plymouth.
Hy-Vee has not yet picked a date for the grand opening of the Spring Lake Park store, but administrator Buchholtz said it would be soon. The store is across the highway from Spring Lake Park High School.
"It will be our biggest single employer, and will be a significant part of our tax base," Buchholtz said.
In Blaine, Hy-Vee officials are scheduled to bring a proposal to the planning commission on Sept. 11 and to the city council Oct. 4, according to Economic Development Coordinator Erik Thorvig.
If the plan is approved, the grocer could begin construction this fall and open the store 12 months later. The 85,000-square-foot store would be built at Jefferson Street and 125th Avenue, near Bunker Hills Regional Park.
Hy-Vee has also expressed interest in sites in Maple Grove and Farmington. In June 2017, the chain called off plans to open a White Bear Lake location. That site, on Centerville Road near Minnesota 96 and Interstate 35E, was later claimed by Lunds & Byerlys.
Hy-Vee's expansion comes as its biggest rival — Cub Foods — might falter.
In the metro area, more than 50 Cub Foods stores will be sold, according to United Natural Foods of Providence, R.I. In July that company announced it was buying Cub's parent company, Supervalu, for $1.26 billion. Before that, the value of Supervalu stock had plummeted by 90 percent since peaking in 2007.