Skilled Management Leads to Business Growth for Company in Mature Grocery Industry

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The right brand sold in a carefully selected location leads to business success even in a staid industry saturated with traditional operators. This is the lesson learned by Barbara Hoffmann, who owns Green Acres, a small chain of stores in the Midwest selling organic and natural foods.

She started her entrepreneurial journey in the wholesale plant business and eventually transformed into a provider of interior landscaping for commercial properties. Necessity triumphed over spirit when Hoffmann had to curtail operations after developing chronic back pain from years of lifting heavy plants. When surgery failed to relieve her condition, she resorted to nutritional supplements and dietary changes.

Hoffmann’s interest in a healthy lifestyle deepened so much that she realized the subject provided a superior business concept. In 1994, she opened the first Green Acres in an upscale area of Wichita, Kansas. The store specialized in vitamins and supplements plus some grocery items. In addition, Hoffmann continued to maintain a showroom for her plant design business within the Green Acres store.

The plant business ultimately grew into needing its own separate location in order to serve a rising customer base of about 400. In addition, the Green Acres store has expanded twice and now comprises 12,500 square feet. The idea has expanded to include specialty foods, a deli, and a bakery. But the original principle remains to sell products with no refined sugars, pesticides, preservatives, or hydrogenated oils. Vitamins and supplements include a store brand that accounts for one-third of sales.

Hoffmann’s daughter, Shannon, opened a Kansas City store in 2006. The mother and daughter team report that both locations are profitable. Total annual sales are about $8.5 million and increasing at about 20 percent per year in Wichita and 12 percent in Kansas City.

Hoffman attributes the success of Green Acres to its emphasis on product integrity and customer education. In addition, the company engages in community outreach with product demonstrations, cooking classes, live music on weekends, and a Saturday farmer’s market to highlight local produce. Despite a competitive landscape, Hoffmann plans to open a new store in Tulsa during 2012 and expects to expand into other strategic regional locations.