Fayetteville-based co-op Ozark Natural Foods (ONF) recently relocated downtown after renovating a former grocery store.
General Manager Mike Anzalone said the natural foods retailer opened at 380 N. College Ave. about six weeks ago, after nearly two months of renovations. It’s the seventh location in the company’s history.
Nabholz Construction Corp. in Rogers used a $4 million building permit to complete the work, and Fayetteville design companies BLKBOX and Modus Studio completed the redesign.
The former tenant of the 32,893-square-foot building was CV’s Family Foods, which closed in early 2018.
ONF purchased the building in October 2018 for $3.6 million. It previously was located at Evelyn Hills Shopping Center and had been there since November 2000. To obtain the new location, Anzalone said ONF sold the nearly 50,000-square-foot building at Evelyn Hills, which included an unused basement.
“It was becoming more and more difficult to get ahead at that location,” Anzalone said. “It was kind of difficult to have a grocery store there. First of all, it’s in midtown, which means you’re only a driving destination. Nobody really walks to Evelyn Hills. We were starting to find more and more successful businesses in the parking lot in front of us. Einstein [Bros.] Bagels opened first, then Tacos 4 Life opened, and then [a] Verizon store was built next to it. It really obscured people’s vision from the street. You could hardly even see us any longer.”
Initially, the plan was to renovate the building to bring more attention to the store. The company also looked to purchase the entire shopping center but opted to move to a new location.
The company has more than 100 employees, about 20 more than at the previous store. Anzalone said the new location and improved store visibility have attracted more customers.
The company had plans to host a grand opening celebration in September, but it’s on hold amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-related business impacts have been mostly operational, including keeping up with regulations, ordinances and people’s health.
“But the big problem that we’ve seen is that initial run on the food chain has created deficits in the market,” Anzalone said. “We’re still looking at 30% out of stocks every time we order. There’s not a wide enough variety of food right now to keep our shelves full.”
A few weeks ago, ONF started online grocery sales, and it’s working with Mercato to offer curbside pickup and delivery.
“So far it’s going well,” Anzalone said. “We haven’t advertised it. We haven’t really spoken about it, but we get three to four orders a day. It’s starting to grow. The basket sizes are larger than our regular basket sizes, and people seem to like it.”
ONF also recently opened a patio and received a beer and wine permit. The taproom features 13 local beers on tap and wine by the glass.
“We have this great, big beautiful patio for people to come and hang out,” he added.
ONF has more than 11,000 members.