Julie’s Urban Grocery planned in Springfield, San Marco
If all works according to plan, Jacksonville businesswoman Julie Larsen intends to open two Julie’s Urban Grocery stores, in Springfield and San Marco, on Oct. 1.
Because of their small size, each store would be stocked with items to serve the neighborhoods, but also offer online grocery orders and home delivery, she said.
“If you let me know you need it, I will make sure you get it,” she said.
The Springfield building, constructed about 1914 at 1501 N. Main St., is vacant and has had several uses, including as Uniform Man Inc. Larsen said she bought the 4,200-square-foot building and interior demolition has begun.
The San Marco location, at 1520 Prudential Drive, recently housed an interior design business. It is larger, at 5,600 square feet. It was built in 1926, according to property records. She intends to lease that building.
Larsen said both buildings had been grocery stores at one time. The Springfield site was built as a grocery store, according to the Springfield Preservation and Revitalization Council. Larsen said at one time it was called “Wildcat Grocery.”
“We’re trying to capture a modern feel,” said Larsen. She described it as “a modern retro feel … a zany feel of shopping.”
The Springfield project is scheduled to be discussed at the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission meeting at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Ed Ball Building.
Lewis Lawrence, president of the Springfield Preservation council, issued a statement welcoming the store.
“Julie’s Urban Grocery has been the talk of the neighborhood,” he said.
“We’re thrilled to see someone of Julie Larsen’s caliber invest in our historic neighborhood, particularly on Main Street. It says a lot about how far Springfield has come over the last few years. We’re excited to welcome her and can’t wait to frequent the store,” he said.
Larsen said she will work with the Jacksonville-based Gallery Restaurant Group to provide catering and some menu items as well as fresh baked goods and artisan breads. The group includes the Burrito Gallery and Uptown Market.
Larsen said the inventory would be “demand-driven” by customers.
To keep the store stocked with needed groceries and supplies, Larsen said each section will offer brand favorites.
“We’re really going to accomplish a lot in a small footprint,” she said.
She compares the environment to a Trader Joe’s, but on a smaller scale.
“It’s challenging, it’s interesting and I’m trying to meet the needs of the customers,” she said.
Larsen said the stores would be served by suppliers to independent grocery stores and independent organic retailers, and also will carry products from local businesses.
She also is trying to establish relationships with local farmers to sell their products.
Larsen expects startup costs of $1.3 million in the Springfield acquisition, renovations and inventory for the stores. She anticipates hiring 12 full-time employees and to increase that to 20. Larsen also said she bought two Smart Cars to assist the business.
She said she is seeking Small Business Administration loan assistance for the project.
Larsen, 38, is a former corporate human resource manager. She and her husband, Akerman Senterfitt attorney Peter Larsen, have four children, ages 14, 8, 7 and 3.
She said she “retired” when her family began growing, but “I never stopped being a businesswoman.”
The Larsens live in the Peninsula, on the Southbank. That’s what sparked her interest in a neighborhood grocer, “living in a high-rise and trying to get groceries in and out.”
She also said she grew up in the business because her grandmother started the family run Florida Health Foods Inc., based in Jacksonville.
The color scheme will be red, black, white and shades of gray.
Larsen is working with Content Design Group to design both locations. The Springfield site needs more work, she said.
“We’re totally gutting and restoring it,” she said. “It needs everything.”
Larsen has filed a notice under the state Fictitious Name Law for the company and works out of the CoWork Jax space Downtown. Her website is www.jacksonvillegrocery.com.
Broker and contractor Bill Cesery said Monday that his companies handled interior demolition on the Springfield store and served as Larsen’s broker in its acquisition and in the San Marco lease negotiations.
“The plans for what she wants to do in Springfield are great,” he said.
“Her family has run Florida Health Food stores for years. She has the family background and history and a great marketing plan. It will be really well done,” he said.
“We are excited about having the grocery in San Marco and we are excited about having the grocery in Springfield,” said Cesery, who has developed properties in both neighborhoods.
Larsen said she studied the demographics and needs of the areas and chose the two locations for their size and “the logistics of what I needed to do.”
The sites are just about 2 miles apart, generally along Main Street. “Springfield and San Marco are a hop, skip and a jump away from each other,” she said.