New grocery store The Fairhope Market recently held a grand opening hosted by the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce. The 12,000-square-foot former Rite Aid pharmacy site is located at 101 South Greeno Road, near the intersection of Morphy Avenue, in Fairhope.
Only in action for a few weeks, the open-air space has the look and feel of a toney place that has been around for much longer. Based on customer turnout to date, co-owners Tyler Flowers Jr. and Johnny Barranco may have captured retail lightning in a bottle.
Experienced entrepreneurs, Flowers is president of Coastal Foods, a food distribution company located in Robertsdale. Barranco also owns an accounting firm in Fairhope. Their stand-alone site is unique in that it competes directly with big-box chains in the area and was developed, from concept to completion, in about 16 months.
“Even though we’d like to stay below the radar, we just had a competitor coming in here, walking around and taking notes the other day,” Flowers said.
He went on to say that the partners initially met through a mutual friend when needing accounting services. “We run about 23 refrigerated trucks in the produce business and were expanding quickly,” Flowers said. “He helped us with a lot of things as far as our growth. My family also owned The Wheelhouse restaurant in Mobile for years, so I have a strong background in the industry.”
“I think one thing we had in common was [agreeing] that there was no singular place in Baldwin County where you could get local and fresh produce, meat and seafood all under one roof,” Barranco said. “Before going into practice for myself, I was the CFO at LuLu’s in Gulf Shores for five years and was also responsible for picking new sites for expansion as well as operations and staffing.”
The seed was initially planted for a partnership when the Burris Farm Market in Loxley went up for sale.
“When Burris Farm Market started going through their transition and it looked like it may come become available, I came to Johnny and we started looking at numbers and logistics,” Flowers said. “We kind of quickly moved on from that, but didn’t kill the idea. We actually grew it to a more grand vision.”
Barranco also tapped into his network, getting help from real estate developer Jack Ward with Ward Properties to help identify key sites in prime locations.
“Jack pointed out that with Rite Aid being bought out by Walgreens, some of the stores closing in the area would not be used. There were going to be a lot of spaces available. When this particular one came up, we had to get it,” Barranco said. “The funny thing about these buildings is that they are too small for a lot of concepts and too big for others, so it’s limited. It was a great fit for our plans, however.”
Capital investment sunk into the site was upwards of $2 million, to morph a former drug-store front into an open-spaced, high-ceilinged property lined with fresh produce, live seafood, a hot and cold deli, a broad wine selection and a drive-through coffee shop with an inside area for patrons to relax.
Flowers attributes his connections in the distribution industry to stocking shelves with a deep selection of items from both local and regional vendors. He also mentioned that price points are across the board, ranging from the high end (Publix, Whole Foods) to cost-plus items on par with Greer’s.
Future growth plans will follow the breadcrumb trail of Rite Aid closures throughout the area, Barranco said, and the duo are working with Justin Toomey at Stirling Properties on market research around appropriately sustainable demographics.
“If this store succeeds the way we hope it does, we are definitely looking at growth. There are several other Rite Aids coming up for sale soon that we have our eyes on,” he said.
Business moves, transactions
James Henderson with Realty Executives Bay Group in Saraland recently reported that a roughly 1,600-square-foot former eatery, located at 1252 Government St. in Midtown Mobile, has been leased by Guncles Gluten Free Bakery. Prior to the move, returning Mobile natives and local co-owners John Edward McGee and Demetrius James operated solely out of their distribution site in Spanish Fort.
Tribu XX has leased 1,200 square feet of retail space located at 1218 Hillcrest Road in Mobile, with plans in place to open in early August. Jill Meeks with Stirling Properties worked for the tenant in the transaction. Joe Gerard of Roberts Brothers represented the landlord.
National Tire Wholesale (NTW) has leased 64,000 square feet of warehouse space located at 250 Jacintoport Blvd. in the Mobile River Industrial Park in Saraland. Mitchum Jackson with Heggeman Realty represented the tenant. David Dexter with NAI Mobile worked for the landlord.
A 10,700-square-foot, fully leased warehouse property, located at 33981 Hwy. 59 in Loxley, was recently acquired by speculators for $675,000. Michael Taylor with Headwater Holdings represented the buyer in the transaction. Joe Steen Real Estate & Development worked for the sellers.
Bell Rose Tattoo & Piercing, located at 28859 Hwy. 98 in Daphne, has announced plans to open a new space in downtown Mobile. Established in 2014, the shop currently employs eight artists with possible plans to hire more with the Mobile County expansion. More news on the site will be forthcoming in Lagniappe.
Jay O’Brien of J. L. O’Brien & Associates Inc. reported the sale of Harris Avenue Commons, a 22-unit apartment complex, located at 115 Harris Ave. in Saraland. It recently sold for $871,000 to local area investors. The two-story property was originally constructed in 2002. Information on upgrades or renovations were unknown as of press time.
According to Josh Young, director of marketing for Mobile-based Multifamily Management Inc., the company is developing a new apartment complex to be located in West Mobile using local contractors. The site broke ground last Monday. More news on the project will be announced soon, according to Young.
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