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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jan. 22, 202005:20 AM EST

Native Sun Natural Food Market to reopen in Jacksonville Beach

Some changes are in store for the store, which closed in August and has operated as a pop-up restaurant.
by: Katie Garwood Staff Writer

Six months after closing its three area stores, Native Sun Natural Food Market will reopen in Jacksonville Beach.

While owner Aaron Gottlieb hasn’t set a date, he anticipates the store will open within the first two weeks of February.

The store will look different, Gottlieb said. After receiving feedback from shoppers after the store closed in August, Gottlieb said he was able to determine what people wanted in the new Native Sun.

The decision to reopen follows a six-week pop-up restaurant Gottlieb operated at the Jacksonville Beach location at 1585 N. Third St. The goal of the pop-up was to determine if there was a demand for Native Sun, which he said proved the community was still interested in the market.

“It went really well in doing quite a few things. It validated that people wanted us to come back and it helped give us a ton of feedback,” he said. “Being a community grocer, the point is we can listen and react.”

The deli area in the store will be made into a restaurant with separate hours from the grocery store. It will serve many of the best-selling grab-and-go options and also incorporate new options. 

There will be a bakery and an organic salad and soup bar, which will include customer-favorite deli items. 

He will reorganize the grocery section and add new products and also expand the produce section. Customers still will be able to buy fresh meats and seafood, but in a grab-and-go setting. 

Gottlieb said the biggest difference with the new Native Sun is that it’s no longer a local grocery chain, but rather a community grocer with a single location. That enables him to listen to the customers and make changes based on what they want.

“We’re not actually looking to start from where we left off. We’re looking at the changes that have happened in the industry, learning from our roots and going back to being a community grocer,” Gottlieb said.

To staff the store, Gottlieb will hire 40 to 50 employees – 75% of which previously worked at one of the three Native Sun locations. He’s hosting hiring fairs to fill the remaining positions. 

Of the three Native Suns, reopening in the leased Jacksonville Beach location made the most sense, he said.  

“The Jacksonville Beach store has shown itself to be a great community of people who like to walk, people who are coming into town to visit, as well as people from the other side of the ditch wanting to come out and enjoy the beaches,” he said. “It just seemed like the best out of all three communities where we could thrive in.” 

Gottlieb said he wants to sell the other two Native Sun buildings, which he owns. He said the 10000 San Jose Blvd. Mandarin store is under contract.  It is 8,975 square feet. Coastal Commercial Real Estate is marketing the 19,500-square-foot Southside store at 11030 Baymeadows Road in Southside. It’s listed at $2,750,000. 

He said the sale of the buildings along with financial support from family and the community helped to relaunch Native Sun as a community grocer.

Gottlieb announced in August he would close all three stores. He cited increased competition in the area grocery industry as a reason for closing. Branching out into three locations became too much for Native Sun to handle, but Gottlieb said he thinks he can find success in a single store, community grocer model that Native Sun started as in 1997 in Mandarin.

While Gottlieb cited the competitive natural foods industry as a factor in closing, one of the closest competitors to the Beaches location is closing. Lucky’s Market is closing all of its Florida stores but one. Those include two in Jacksonville, with one at 580 Atlantic Blvd. in Neptune Beach.


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