Sunflower Farmers Market was launched in 2002 with the slogan “Serious Food…Silly Prices!” having grown from one to 32 stores within six years and now covering six southwest markets in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Texas and New Mexico. The successful chain’s current plan is to expand into California at the beginning of 2011, the first site to be in Roseville outside of Sacramento in April followed by another site in San Jose.
Founder Mike Gilliland told the San Francisco Chronicle, “We’re thrilled to be bringing Sunflower Farmers Market to California and to continue expanding even further throughout the state in 2011. Our current locations have been extremely successful and well-received by health-conscious consumers wanting affordable options. We look forward to making quality, healthy grocery options accessible to all communities we can, and entering the California market is one more step toward that goal.”
Gilliland is certainly no newbie to the organic and natural health food chain scene, beginning his career back in the mid eighties when he seemed to have stumbled upon the career after buying a small convenient store in Boulder. In a recent Colorado Business Magazine article, where he was named Colorado’s 2010 CEO of the Year, Gilliland explains his ironic path, “I was just looking for something I could run…I didn’t have any predisposition toward the food business or the grocery business before that.” Little did he know he would be a leader in the business for the next twenty-five years.
In 1987, he obtained Crystal Market with his business partner, which eventually turned into the more well-known Wild Oats chain natural foods store. Wild Oats expanded to 115 stores, became a $2.2 billion company after going public and in 2007 was bought out by rival Whole Foods Inc. Gilliland left his position as CEO at Wild Oats in 2001, only to start Sunflower Farmers Market a year later.
Sunflower’s concept is to sell healthy, local food at an affordable price point, with a focus on fresh produce which makes up 25 percent of their sales. In addition, all natural and organic meats and seafood, a large variety of bulk items, and natural living and wellness products are offered. Their online Wellness Center allows folks to research health conditions and appropriate herbs, supplements or treatments that might best address their nutritional and health needs.
They also claim to be the first grocery store to own and operate their very own commercial-scale farm, Sunflower Farm, a 14 acre operation from which Colorado-based customers can sign up for a weekly CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Veggie Box to be picked up at certain Colorado store locations.
To learn more about Sunflower Farmers Market, check out the following videos:
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