GreenAcres to acquire Wichita and Oklahoma health-food businesses

Homegrown GreenAcres Market is planning to manage and then acquire an older and larger locally owned chain of natural foods stores.

GreenAcres has reached an agreement to begin managing the three Whole Foods Association stores in Wichita and Health Food Centers stores in Oklahoma City and Lawton, Okla. – all of which are owned by Rene and Shauna Shelton – on Sept. 1. By the end of October, GreenAcres will acquire those stores, GreenAcres owner Barb Hoffmann said Wednesday.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The Sheltons’ five stores employ about 100 people, and GreenAcres employs 120 between its three stores in Wichita, Tulsa and Kansas City.

John Hoffmann, Barb Hoffmann’s husband and an owner of GreenAcres, called Rene Shelton a “pioneer” in natural foods retailing. Rene and her late husband, Bill, opened their first store 42 years ago, in Lawton, later expanding it into Wichita and Oklahoma City.

The Sheltons’ “mission” of providing education to the customers of their stores fits with GreenAcres’ mission and culture.

Barb Hoffmann said she began contacting the Sheltons about doing business together more than six years ago.

“I had been contacting them for quite a while,” said Hoffmann of her interest in the Sheltons’ stores. “I had always respected what they did.”

Rene Shelton said Wednesday that she would soon turn 85 and was ready to sell the business.

“Age has a lot to do with it,” she said. “I’d love to go on but it’s time I retired. The Hoffmanns are good business people and they’ve served the community well.”

The Hoffmanns said they have no immediate plans for making any changes to the stores. As for the name on the Sheltons’ Wichita stores, “we’re going to keep the Whole Foods name,” Barb Hoffmann said. “For the foreseeable future, we’ll keep them as they are.”

‘Midwest chain’

The Hoffmanns want to grow GreenAcres into a regional chain, and the acquisition of the Sheltons’ stores does that.

“It gives us a lot more buying power,” Barb Hoffmann said, adding that GreenAcres will be able to get more inventory at a lower cost, and pass some of that savings on to its customers.

And it gives GreenAcres “a lot more strength” and the ability to “stay competitive in the industry.”

She said the entrance of Natural Grocers and Fresh Market stores into the Wichita market had “maybe a little (impact) at first” on GreenAcres’ business. “But what it’s really done is create awareness” of natural foods and supplements stores, she said, adding that GreenAcres continues to see growth in its existing stores.

Daughter Shannon Hoffmann, who oversees GreenAcres stores in Oklahoma and Kansas City, said the addition of the Health Foods Centers in Oklahoma will bolster its Oklahoma business.

“It allows us to build a good team (in Oklahoma),” Shannon Hoffmann said. And, “Oklahoma is really growing … in terms of natural foods and supplements.”

And if a five-store acquisition wasn’t enough, the Hoffmans said they are making plans to open a second Kansas City store, this one around the Plaza area.

The Hoffmanns said construction on a second Kansas City store won’t begin until next year and it probably won’t open until sometime in 2015.

“That’s what we want to be, a Midwest chain,” Barb Hoffmann said.