The balloons, ribbons and pomp and circumstance of the latest grocery store grand opening in Cape Coral were absent last week.
Sprouts Farmers Market opened Oct. 4 at 1800 NE Pine Island Road off Pondella Road and tried to do so quietly out of respect for those who suffered from Hurricane Ian, vice president of operations Lucas Larson said.
Word began to spread via social media, and when the doors opened at noon that day, there was a line of about 30 people waiting to get inside.
Sprouts intended to open Oct. 6, two days later.
“We are open,” Larson said. “We had the opportunity to accelerate the opening to try and serve the community here. We were running off the generators for the first couple of days.”
Sprouts was able to sell groceries to Cape Coral and surrounding area residents during a week of widespread power outages and grocery shortages following Hurricane Ian, Larson said.
“When Hurricane Ian hit, we brought our team together to serve the community,” he said. “We saw it Tuesday when people started coming through the doors. There were multiple customers coming in without power. They wanted to feel the cool air conditioning.”
Sprouts also had to be sensitive to the needs of the store’s 75 employees. Many of them were without power when the store opened.
“We have 75 team members right now in varying levels of impact,” Larson said. “Everyone’s got their house, and everyone’s physically doing well. We had a few team members with certainly power outage and some with damage to their homes. No one was displaced or had to leave the area. They’ve all done really well.”
Known for its fresh produce department, Sprouts began selling more dry goods its first few days of operations, Larson said.
“Just in our few days, there’s some change in shopping patterns,” Larson said. “I will say quite a few customers have been looking for protein items and meats, things they can take home and put on a gas or propane grill. We’ve been supporting them with that. As the power gets on, we’ll see more of a normal shopping pattern return.”
“Citrus and apples and bananas. Things that are easy to eat – they’re certainly buying those. Cut fruit.”
This is the 35th Sprouts store in Florida. It joins locations in Naples and Estero in Southwest Florida, with at least two more in the planning stages for Fort Myers, one of which is expected to open in 2023.
The new Cape Coral store did not suffer any damage other than to some signage outside.
“As the storm was crossing the state, we already had plenty of merchandise in the building,” Larson said. “We have a distribution center in Orlando. That was able to get quite a bit of product down to us. We had to work around floodwaters and traffic issues.”
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone impacted. We’re trying to help the customers get what they need. That’s why we made the effort to open early. We wanted to get out and serve the community as quick as we could. Additionally, a couple of other things we’re looking to do, we have a Sprouts community foundation. We’re going to donate $250,000 to support disaster relief in Florida. It’s a combined effort with the Red Cross.”
Sprouts also combined to deliver 45,000 healthy snacks on Saturday to distribution sites in Naples and Cape Coral for those in need.