Longtime local grocery store Ozark Natural Foods has been working for more than a year on a plan to move from their current location in Evelyn Hills into the building formerly home to IGA at the southeast corner of College Avenue and Lafayette Street.
That plan took another step forward last week when planning commissioners approved ONF’s requests to allow construction of the new store.
Store general manager Mike Anzalone told us on Thursday that designs for the new building have been finalized and are currently out for construction bids.
An architectural rendering of the new store, designed by local firm Modus Studio, shows a new entrance at the northwest corner of the building facing College Avenue, a large, covered outdoor seating area along the street, and other amenities.
Aside from the patio, Anzalone said the new store will showcase a taproom with exclusively local and regional beers, an expanded prepared food area and a coffee shop featuring Onyx Coffee.
“The objective is to build the kind of place where people want to come and hang out at the co-op,” he said.
The coop recently hired Emilie Petry as a store manager to help achieve that vision. Petry has extensive experience in food service, Anzalone said, and she’ll be tasked with helping to expand the prepared food business for ONF.
“The plan is to radically expand prepared foods,” he said. “We hired Emily three months ago, and with her background running a chain of vegan restaurants, she has a great understanding of how kitchens are run and how foodservice works. We are looking for her to help us radically up our game.”
The Homestead pet food and feed store portion of the coop will be located on the east side of the building on the opposite side of College Avenue.
Anzalone said the new building does have a bit of extra space, and the co-op plans to share a small portion of the building with one or two other local businesses.
In addition to the new building, ONF has also been undergoing rebranding exercises with local design agency, BLK BOX, and the new branding will be integrated into the design of the new store. The company’s new logo, which focuses on the word ‘Co-op’ is visible in the rendering Anzalone shared with us this week.
The rendering also shows a sign hanging over the door that reads “Everyone Welcome,” which gets to the heart of what the co-op is trying to accomplish, he said.
“We really want to invite people in, earn their trust and business, and have a comfortable environment to give people the healthiest food they can get in Fayetteville,” he said.
Anzalone said the co-op is nearly finished with the bidding process, and once that is complete, he will have a better idea of when construction will be able to begin.
ONF has been in its current building in the Evelyn Hills Shopping Center since 2000. A purchase of that space was initiated in 2008, and the final mortgage payment was announced in 2012. Anzalone said the co-op last week officially sold the space to a group of local investors.
The co-op purchased the new property last October for $3.6 million. Anzalone said if all goes well, the store will be up and running in the new building sometime in 2020.