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Magazine names GreenAcres Retailer of the Year

07/02/2014 6:53 AM

07/02/2014 7:26 AM

Diehard fans of GreenAcres Market have been concerned for the 20-year-old, seven-store chain as major competitors such as Whole Foods Market and Natural Grocers have entered the area and smaller vitamin and supplement chains have expanded here.

Perhaps in a sign that it’s not going anywhere, though, GreenAcres has snared a major industry award from Whole Foods Magazine. The magazine, which has no relation to Whole Foods Market, has named GreenAcres the 2014 Retailer of the Year.

“We can’t believe we got it,” GreenAcres co-owner Barb Hoffmann says. “We didn’t have a clue we were even in the running.”

Hoffmann says the magazine is geared to 20,000 stores like hers.

“It’s the No. 1 magazine in our industry,” she says. “Out of 20,000 stores, we were exceptionally excited.”

Hoffmann, who owns the store with her husband, John, daughter, Shannon, and store manager Matt Murray, didn’t set out to be in the natural foods business.

She and her husband own the plant store Tropical Designs, and some heavy lifting she did there along with in her personal life years ago injured her back.

“I started originally in this industry because I had a real pain problem, and so I got into alternative health and then that got us into natural food stores,” Hoffmann says.

“At that time, they were really big in supplements and you didn’t see that many groceries because here in the Midwest, we’re just a little slower than everybody else for people to catch on,” she says.

“Since I had lost my health I started reading everything I could get my hands on. As I became knowledgeable, that’s one of the reasons we wanted to open (the store) because we wanted to help others.”

She says they did their homework.

“John and I traveled everywhere and looked at all the stores that have made a mark in our industry,” Hoffmann says.

“Our big dream was, could we ever be that?” she says. “So we kept forging forward, and we got more and more into groceries. They started tasting better and better. We developed a real business because we had people coming in every day with gluten-free problems, with food sensitivities, and they were looking for answers, so that in turn sent us into discovering our real niche.”

That’s the store’s deli. Hoffmann says deli dishes don’t have refined flours or sugars or high-fructose corn syrup. She says many of the dishes are vegan, gluten-free or peanut-free.

“We use as much organic as possible,” she says. “So people know they can come here and trust us.”

Hoffmann says the special ingredients can lead to higher prices, but she says it’s worth it.

“We had the attitude, why be in this industry if we’re not going to be authentic?” she says.

After all the research and years of work, Hoffmann says, “now here it is 20 years later and our industry has given us the No. 1 Retailer of the Year award. We feel extremely humbled and extremely appreciative of this award.”

Hoffmann says the magazine looks at a number of things when choosing a winner.

“They just asked us all about our business. How we do it. How we’ve been successful.”

Hoffmann says she thinks her chain’s growth is a factor.

In addition to stores in Wichita and Kansas City, Mo., GreenAcres acquired five Whole Foods Association stores last year.

Hoffmann says she’s not worried about competition.

“Actually, it kind of brings the awareness up,” she says of having more natural food stores. “It makes us fine-tune who we are, that we’re about education and community.”

She says her original Wichita store grew by 10 percent in the last year and that the Kansas City store grew by 14 percent. Now, Hoffmann wants to add more stores and become a Midwest chain.

Hoffmann says GreenAcres is in good company in winning the award.

“Whole Foods Market got the award eight years ago,” she says. “All the big stores have gotten it.”

Though Hoffmann says she’s “shocked” and “thrilled” at the award, she says the most important thing to her is helping others with her stores, and she says she thinks the magazine recognized that.

“We focus on making a difference,” Hoffmann says. “I think that’s probably what they look for the most.”

Lovely view of the jail?

Mulvane resident Tom Coppola Googled the WaterWalk fountains the other day because he planned to go to a nearby food truck rally.

“I was very pleased to find numerous YouTube videos showing the beauty of said fountains,” Coppola said in an e-mail.

Coppola said he was surprised, though, to see that a number of references on Google showed the address of the fountains as 605 N. Wichita.

Instead of a view of the fountains, visitors will find themselves looking at the back side of the county jail if they go to that address.

“The most amazing of all was the fact that the city of Wichita’s own website has the same incorrect address!” Coppola wrote. “Imagine the surprise of a visitor to our fair city, who attempts to find the waterwalk fountains, only to end up in an alley behind the county jail. One would think that with the amount of money spent on these fountains, the amount of money spent promoting tourism in Wichita, and recent attempts by the city to increase sales tax in order to help promote tourism, that somebody would do a better job of making sure that visitors have the information they need in order to view these attractions.”

Coppola signed his e-mail: “A concerned (sales tax paying) resident of Kansas.”

In another e-mail, city spokesman Dale Goter said the city appreciates Coppola’s concern.

“The address was erroneously posted as N. Wichita and should be S. Wichita. We have changed it,” Goter wrote. “Please pass along our thanks to the alert reader who noticed the mistake.”

Football fever

Futball fever is sweeping the world, but the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce is more into football at the moment.

That’s because the group has selected its speaker for its Dec. 4 annual meeting, and though the chamber didn’t choose the speaker due to a football connection, the person does have ties to the sport.

The chamber is waiting until Wednesday afternoon to share the news, but spokeswoman Angie Prather was a good sport and played a little guessing game in the meantime.

Barry Sanders was our obvious first choice. Or another player?

Nice try, Prather says, but nope.

A coach? Team owner?

Our guesses seem to be getting colder.

College or pro official?

Getting warmer sort of.

Prather allowed a few clues.

This football fanatic – again, not necessarily known for football – likely would don a brown jersey on Sundays and perhaps turn on some Led Zeppelin for a fabulous afternoon. However, this person would prefer to have a more official capacity in the sport that might surprise some.

Think you know who it may be? Thoroughly confused? Either way, check www.blogs.kansas.com/haveyouheard Wednesday afternoon for the full story.

Derby expansion

The Derby Credit Union of America, currently at 620 N. Baltimore, is moving to the northeast corner of Rock Road and James Street.

“We’ve got this land deal done, and we’re trying to go full speed ahead on this branch,” says Glenda Burkett, vice president for marketing and business development.

“It is going to be a larger branch.”

The credit union is in 1,200 square feet now and will have 3,000 square feet in its new space. There also will be a drive-through with two or three lanes and an ATM lane. The current branch doesn’t have a drive-through.

“This will be a freestanding location that we are building,” Burkett says.

She says there won’t be a traditional teller line at the new branch.

Burkett says the employees who greet members will be full-service workers who are able to handle all of members’ needs.

“We’re really excited about that,” she says. “We’ll be creating three or four new jobs for this branch.”

There will be more announcements closer to the new branch’s opening, but Burkett says there will be some interactive devices to help members conduct business and learn more about what the credit union offers.

“This branch is going to showcase our technology-based services inside.”

Randy Johnston at J .P. Weigand & Sons handled the deal for the new space. Dwayne Rumsey and Rod Koker are the architects, and George Lay Signs is doing the signs.

In addition to a corporate office, the company has 11 Wichita-area branches, including Derby and Goddard sites.

Look for construction to begin at the new Derby site in early September and for the credit union to be open by mid-2015.

Carrie Rengers first reported these items on her blog. Be among the first to get her business scoops at blogs.kansas.com/haveyouheard.

About Carrie Rengers

Carrie Rengers joined The Eagle's Business team in 2002 despite her inability to even balance a checkbook. Fortunately for her, and readers, her Have You Heard? blog is about business scoops and contains lots of news but almost no math.

A Michigan native, Carrie’s father was quite tragically transferred to Little Rock, Ark., in the middle of her sophomore year of high school. To make matters worse, her parents put her in a girls school. She recovered, though, and went on to enjoy being an English major at Hendrix College (the Harvard of the Ozarks, don’t you know). She worked for the weekly Arkansas Business and the statewide daily Arkansas Democrat-Gazette before moving to Wichita to be with her favorite writer and cook, husband Joe Stumpe.

Carrie encourages readers to contact her with tips, questions, behind-the-scenes business news and even funny quotes from business people. Reach her at 316-268-6340 or crengers@wichitaeagle.com

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