Just got off the phone with Marc Andres, who walked us through the deal that's bringing a Sunflower Farmers Market to 1800 N. Henderson Avenue by the beginning of '09. Turns out, the deal went down awfully fast: "60 days from start to finish," Andres tells Unfair Park, "which is pretty efficient." No doubt, Sunflower's looking to take on Whole Foods as it moves into the former Lakewood Minyard's, where Opening Day's scheduled for January 2. As Andres puts it: "Sunflower is what Whole Foods used to be before it became Whole Foods for rich people."
Maybe so, as folks do seem to dig the chain started seven years ago by Wild Oats founder Mike Gilliland. At least, that's judging by the raves for one of its Denver locations. Its Las Vegas spot likewise is well-liked; so too an Albuquerque outpost. Folks do seem to have the same recurring issues, though: so-so produce and overpriced vitamins.
Folks in the neighborhood surrounding the former Carnival -- many of whom groused loud enough to get Marc and Roger Andres to back off of their plan to have some 200-plus apartments sitting atop restaurants and retail -- have been gossiping for weeks that the site would indeed return to its grocery-store roots. Rumors had circulated that a big chain was interested -- like, too big. Like, scrape-the-property and start-all-over big.
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Marc won't go into details about that; instead he'll only say that "we both felt very good about each other and the fit for the neighborhood. It's not about the economics of the one deal. A grocery store is not the highest-paying tenant you can get down there. But it's about what it does for East Dallas. Sunflower has a great track record and is going to come to Dallas in a big way. Funny thing is, if the zoning had gone though, we could have done this and then had 250 apartments above it. It would have been the ultimate win-win with more foot traffic and more 'urban living,' but considering we couldn't get the density of the units, we've got a phenomenal grocery store anchor."
As for the organic chain's business practices, this profile-press release from Fast Company in 2006 about the organic grocery chain notes: "There’s no corporate HQ and the stores buy produce by the truckload directly from vendors so the place is stocked with inexpensive, fresh organic food in a no-frills environment."
As for the building, Sunflower will retrofit the old Carnival, Andres says -- very organic, dig. And he does expect it to give Whole Foods a run for its money.
"It will serve as a catalyst, pulling that part of Henderson together with Ross and downtown and Lakewood," he says. "Even folks I know from the Park Cities are looking forward to it." --Robert Wilonsky