Earth Fare opened its first Jacksonville store Wednesday morning at Sleiman Enterprises’ Atlantic North shopping center in East Arlington.
After the ceremonial ribbon-cutting, Earth Fare Chief Financial Officer Scott Little told the Daily Record that the North Carolina chain wanted to open at least two or three more stores in the Jacksonville market.
“We think this is at least a three-four store market,” Little said. “You’ll see us more in Jacksonville.”
Little, who is from St. Augustine, said Westside and Mandarin were two of the areas under consideration, but did not specify any sites.
Sleiman made an early bid at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “I’ll do another deal for you here in Jacksonville,” Sleiman told an Earth Fare executive.
Sleiman Enterprises owns shopping centers around the area. The Sleiman.com site says the company’s footprint includes 5 million square feet of retail space.
Earth Fare opened at 8 a.m. Wednesday at 11901 Atlantic Blvd., next to Academy Sports & Outdoors. Sharon Overstreet of Arlington said she was the first customer to arrive, pulling up at 6 a.m., and was curious to check on the store and its prices.
She also wanted one of the free tote bags given to the first 5,000 customers.
Overstreet noted she also was one of the first new customers at the Krispy Kreme in Arlington and won free doughnuts monthly for a year.
She said she lives near a Publix Super Markets store and a Walmart Supercenter. Asked if she will shop Earth Fare, she might. “It depends how much it is going to cost,” she said.
Earth Fare says it focuses on making healthy food affordable.
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.
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. Customers may sign up online at earthfare.com for promotions.
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.
Sleiman working on Arlington movie theater
Developer Toney Sleiman didn’t say where — just “around here” — when he said Wednesday morning he was working with a movie theater for the area around Atlantic and Kernan boulevards.
The theater would be one of many projects he plans at the intersection, where Sleiman Enterprises owns three corners.
Sleiman said the company has outparcels available at the Walmart and Kohl’s-anchored southwest corner.
A four-story mini-warehouse could be built behind the Petco there.
He said he was working on a contract for a charter school near the BJ’s Wholesale Club on the southeast corner.
On the northwest corner, the new Earth Fare soon will have a new neighbor — a Belk department store. Belk is under development at the western end of the Atlantic North shopping center and is expected to open in March.
There also is space for four other retailers in the center, which is anchored by LA Fitness and Academy Sports & Outdoors. Sleiman said Sleiman Enterprises is negotiating with some “junior boxes,” which are smaller retailers, for the remaining spaces.
And that’s not all.
Of the nine outparcels at Atlantic North, he is working with companies to develop four or five.
Just north of Atlantic North, Sleiman said the developer of the apartment units under construction has optioned the second parcel there and will add more.
And west of Atlantic North, Sleiman has more property to develop, including 20 acres zoned for auto dealerships. He said he was working with two dealerships to each take 10 acres.
In October, Sleiman compared the potential of his Atlantic and Kernan property to the success of the 240-acre St. Johns Town Center retail and housing development at Butler Boulevard and the Interstate 295 East Beltway.
“If you want to be in that market, I own all three corners,” he said. “It’s a nice position to be in.”
Developer Toney Sleiman is ready to help the Earth Fare natural and organic supermarket chain find more locations in Jacksonville.