Earth Fare workers buzzed within the natural and organic food store Monday, preparing for the 8 a.m. Wednesday opening to the public.
They arranged fresh produce, organized shelves of natural, organic and gluten-free products, prepared the cases for fresh seafood, meats, bakery and deli products, and put final touches on equipment and furnishings.
Team managers from throughout the Southeast help out for the store openings.
“We are a very, very tight-knit group,” said Amanda Arnet, new store marketing manager.
The North Carolina-based chain will open its first Jacksonville store at 11901 Atlantic Blvd. in the Atlantic North shopping center.
The ribbing-cutting is 7:45 a.m. Wednesday and the store opens immediately after. The first 5,000 customers receive an Earth Fare shopping tote bag.
On Monday, Arnet provided media tours in advance of the opening to the public, explaining arrangements, qualities, brands and uses of the products.
In addition to bulk, packaged, deli and freshly prepared foods, there’s a “Scoop your own ravioli” refrigerated case of pasta for customers who want to choose specific amounts and varieties. There’s also bulk liquid – pour your own honey, maple syrup and agave nectar.
Gluten-free items are displayed within their product category, but clearly grouped and marked for easy identification.
There’s a wellness center with personal care products, indoor and outdoor café areas, the Jacksonville Kitchen next to it for freshly prepared foods, seven check-out lanes and a customer-service center, and daily deals.
Customers may sign up online at earthfare.com for promotions.
The company, whose tag line is “Real Food For Everyone,” says its food never contains artificial ingredients, high-fructose corn syrup, or antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones in fresh meat or dairy.
It also says it wants customers to know that healthy food is affordable.
Earth Fare carries more than 100 private label items, of which a large percentage is organic.
Earth Fare hired 85 people to staff the store, which is next to Academy Sports & Outdoors at northwest Kernan and Atlantic boulevards. The company said it chose the site based on customer demand.
To start, hours will be 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Hours might be adjusted based on customer needs.
Earth Fare is based near Asheville, N.C. It began in 1975 and, with the Jacksonville opening, operates 33 stores in nine states, including a Florida store in Tallahassee.
Earth Fare’s Jacksonville store appears to be at least a $2 million construction job. Target Contractors Inc., associated with center developer Sleiman Enterprises, is the contractor for the 24,000-square-foot store construction and build-out.