Bob Whitcomb, Roz Balkin, Prakash Misra and Melissa Misra of Sunflower Natural Foods have been as close to ecstatic as they’ve been in months. They’ve finally gotten approvals of their plans for an expansion of their store at Bradley Meadows, except a few design details, and are readying to accept bids to begin a heavy construction period that will have at least half of their plans realized by late June/early July.
“We’re working to open up the former Rite Aid space first, complete with a new entrance,” Whitcomb said this week. “There’ll be a bigger and better produce section, and we’ll be setting up a new coffee and juice bar over the summer.”
Paku Misra joined in by email “We are all really excited to have received approval from the town to move forward on our monumental project. Their feedback will allow us to create a space that will serve the community in a better way than we had originally envisioned. We are proud to announce a partnership with Mid-Hudson Valley Credit Union. Without their assistance, especially the personal touch of Georgene Fredericks, we would not have been able to advance the project as far as we have. We look forward to working them as the renovation progresses.”
Whitcomb spoke about the complexities of what’s at hand. How to renovate what’s been Sunflower, in its original and most recently-renovated forms, has yet to be settled on. Much will need to wait until the new space is ready; all of the popular store’s owners want to ensure that their customers don’t run into any problems finding products, or getting around in their store during the always-busy summer months ahead.
What’s settled, for now, are a few facts: the sidewalk out front of what had been built as a multi-store shopping center will disappear for now. The portion of the building that had been Rite Aid (and before that Eckerd, and long before that a bank) will expand over what had been sidewalk to accommodate the new entrance. Eventually, the rest of the older Sunflower will move forward as well, with an entirely new façade for all. Excavation will be starting, as soon as bids are accepted, for an addition out back of the current structure. Towards the end of the entire project, a new sidewalk will go in, plus new landscaping throughout Bradley Meadows.
Whitcomb also noted that Bank of Greene County can’t start renovations on the former A&P building that will be occupied by Bank of America until that entity leaves May 31. Bank of Greene County has said that it will start its own renovations as soon as they move in to their new Bradley Meadows home in early June, with plans to open their new branch there in September.
The large Paul Arndt mural of a resplendent rural setting that’s been in the bank building for decades will be moving to the Woodstock Town Hall on Tinker Street, where town court takes place, adjacent to the Woodstock Police offices. The effort is being handled by the local volunteer group that calls themselves “The Geezer Corps,” made up of town board members Lorin Rose and Richard Heppner, former planning board member Tom Unrath, and retired social worker Jim Hanson.
Whitcomb, Balkin and the Misras noted that they’ll be releasing elevation drawings for their expansion and renovation plans in the coming weeks, once their bidding process has been completed and final design issues get resolved with the Woodstock Commission for Civic Design.
“The Sunflower team is working tirelessly on this next phase which involves putting the final touches on equipment purchases and design layout. This will lead to the final phase of buildout which we are sure our community is eagerly anticipating,” added Paku Misra. “As we continue to realize aspects of the project we will be delighted to keep everyone informed of our progress.”
“We’ve been continuously reviving what we’re planning to do so we move forward as quickly and well as we can,” Whitcomb said. “It’s challenging already having to do this sort of stuff in the summer, and my friends keep telling me I’m doing more now than before I retired. “
He added that much of the current planning that’s underway has to do with “revamping internal structures” to accommodate change during construction and after.
“It’s a really big undertaking,” said Whitcomb, who founded Sunflower 40 years ago next month. “The four members of our family have all come together to create a store fit for the future…We’ve tried to get it set up the way it should be.”