Workers started construction Dec. 5 on the Ozark Natural Foods Co-Op location in downtown Fayetteville, a $4.5 million project that has been in progress for over a year.
Ozark Natural Foods has been in its current building since 2000, and will move to a new space, closing the old location, in mid-April, said General Manager Mike Anzalone. It will offer more prepared food selections, have a new coffee shop, an adjoining taproom that will serve only local brews and a patio outside with picnic benches, swings and possibly hammock stands.
The business is a co-op, which means it is member-owned and member-controlled by those who use the store, according to Ozark Natural Foods. The owners considered renovating before finding the location on College Avenue.
Anzalone thinks the new location will improve relationships with UA students, which is one of the reasons for moving. There are more than 10,000 owners of Ozark Natural Foods, 800 of which are students, which Anzalone thinks is very low, he said.
To be a fully invested owner with Ozark Natural Foods, people can make a one-time payment of $140 or pay $10 per year for 14 years, according to Ozark Natural Foods. Owners receive discounts, exclusive sales and some monetary profit based on how much a person shops.
“We are hoping that we become a hangout destination for students to do homework, watch movies, play games or have meetings,” Anzalone said.
Anzalone thinks the amount of items that shoppers buy might decrease, as people will be able to stop for short visits, thinks but the number of transactions will increase because more people will visit every day.
“What we really want is to have a co-op that people visit every day and make small purchases and hang out at,” Anzalone said.
Modus Studio, a local architecture firm, created the design for the building. Officials chose the studio because they thought it was great and had a good volume of work, Anzalone said. Chris and Leanne Baribeau, who are owners of Ozark Natural Foods, worked on the project.
“They’ve been active owners for a long time, and they really care a lot about the Co-Op,” Anzalone said. “They really wanted to help us modernize and create a new brand and new look for ourselves.”
Leanne Baribeau has been a frequent shopper and owner of Ozark Natural Foods for 15 years, so designing the new location was a fun project for her, she said.
Baribeau thinks the location and the new additions will change the way people interact with the business, she said. She is especially interested in the new coffee area, which will serve drinks from Onyx Coffee, a Northwest Arkansas coffee shop.
The building will also have a new entrance that faces College Avenue, Baribeau said. Her design includes opening up the space and adding a patio with a garden to make the store more inviting.
“I just want to see them succeed, and I think that they are going to go beyond everybody’s expectations,” Baribeau said. “Honestly, I’ve never been as connected to a project as this one, so I could shout it from the mountaintops.”
Anzalone hopes to implement more sustainable ideas for the building in the future, including solar panels, water reclamation and a richer garden, he said.
The store will also rebrand by focusing on the word “Co-Op,” which will include a new color palette and a redo of the label, Anzalone said.
“It’s going to be a total rebirth of our co-op,” Anzalone said. “We feel like it’s important to shout that we’re not just a single business, but we’re a single business that’s owned by the community.