“We think this is at least a three-four store market,” said Earth Fare Chief Financial Officer Scott Little after the ribbon-cutting and grand opening of the chain’s first store at Kernan and Atlantic boulevards in the East Arlington area.
Little said Westside and Mandarin were two of the areas under consideration, but did not specify any sites for the North Carolina organic and natural foods chain.
“You’ll see us more in Jacksonville,” said Little, who is from St. Augustine.
Earth Fare opened at 8 a.m. today at 11901 Atlantic Blvd. in the Atlantic North shopping center developed by Toney Sleiman and his family.
“I’ll do another deal for you here in Jacksonville,” Sleiman told an Earth Fare executive at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Sleiman Enterprises owns shopping centers around the area.
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.
Mayor Alvin Brown said Wednesday morning before the opening that the health of a community depends on the health of its people, so he welcomed Earth Fare’s opening.
He also noted the North Carolina company’s investment in Jacksonville and the hiring of employees as signs of the area’s health.
“Jacksonville is hot, on fire,” he said.
Earth Fare has hired 84 people to staff the store, which is next to Academy Sports & Outdoors at northwest Kernan and Atlantic boulevards.
Customers may sign up online at earthfare.com for promotions.
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.
Earth Fare, which opened its first store in Jacksonville this morning, wants to add at least two to three more.