Sunflower market plans bloom

After a year of preliminary work, planning board and zoning board of appeals processes, and the delays inherent in all contemporary building projects, the remake and expansion of Sunflower Natural Foods in Woodstock is underway.

“We’ll have the drawing we’re presenting to Woodstock Times first up on our fence by the end of this week,” said the business’ founder Bob Whitcomb. “We were ready to start excavation this week but are already pushed back a bit.”

Whitcomb noted that the family-owned and operated company which first opened its doors in Woodstock in 1978 when Whitcomb “envisioned a market that would offer products and services designed to provide everyone with access to clean, organic, local food and goods to enhance and improve their health” first took its proposed changes to the Woodstock planning board in May of 2017. They finally received approvals in July, and permits in recent weeks.

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“By expanding our Woodstock store, we can build out our products and services, ultimately positioning our community for better health and well-being. We have a holistic vision for the store and dream of the day when we can tie in cooking classes, a garden, and apiary with our made-from-scratch to-go menu and juice bar offerings,” said Melissa Misra, Sunflower co-owner and a resident of Rhinecliff, where the business’ second store is based. “The expansion also gives us a chance to add new employees and professional partners; it’s an exciting time and we’re really grateful to all who’ve gotten behind our work and this movement toward a more holistic lifestyle. These types of initiatives really require the support of an entire village, and we’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support.”

Whitcomb pointed out that the current construction phase will work towards the finishing of new back-of-store facilities and a new store entrance and shelving where Rite Aid was until recently, for completion by Thanksgiving. The store would then operate without major construction of any sort through the holiday season before a final push towards renovation of the existing Sunflower store through the winter months, aimed towards a grand re-opening of the entirely renewed space next spring or early summer.

Sunflowers’ owners said they would do all they could not to compromise their clientele’s shopping experience through the coming winter, although complications will arise as they “tear apart the old store.”

Whitcomb said a final floor plan of Sunflower’s changes is still in flux, somewhat, as the owners realized an elevator would not be necessary as originally planned, thus freeing up a bit of “extra space” in the back office portion of the structure.

His fellow owners stated appreciation for Sunflower’s loyal customers of many years, and reiterated how the current changes and expansion are a means of meeting their community’s needs.

“There’s no question that people are increasingly more deliberate about what they consume,” said co-owner Paku Misra. “Our wide selection of organic produce and all-natural products provides locals with an easy, convenient way to do right for their bodies and for the planet. It’s really gratifying, and we’re thrilled to continue to grow, learn, and meet the needs of our neighbors, friends, and communities,” he added.

Roz Balkin, Vice President of the company, weighed in. “We’ve been very lucky that Sunflower customers are so educated and caring. As our customers have become more aware of the importance of protecting the Earth, choices of organic foods have increased. Every day that I’m in Sunflower, customers thank us for the amazing choices we’ve made and the education our staff provides.”

Whitcomb said that other changes for the entirety of Bradley Meadows, the mid-century shopping plaza he and Balkin own with other partners, are still in flux as the Bank of Greene County prepares to open its new space in half of the footage Bank of America previously occupied by late September. He’s received several inquiries about two spaces that will be made available in the remainder of the former Bank of America space closer to where the new Sunflower entrance will be, as well as that same structure’s Woodstock Healing Center and A&P Bar.

“We still have to build those spaces out and get use variances for them,” he added. “That will take at least a couple of months.”

Still, Whitcomb, Balkin and the Misras feel they’ve finally passed a major threshold by starting construction and releasing an image of what they’ve now been planning for well over a year.

“We’ve come so far since opening the business in 1978, but what’s most gratifying is to see how our customers and broader community have embraced a healthier, locally-sourced, organic lifestyle,” Whitcomb said. “Their commitment to living well, and our commitment to giving them what they need, is at the heart of our work.”

To learn more about upcoming events, visit www.sunflowernatural.com

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