New flagship store draws loyal Chamberlin’s customers | Crain's Orlando

New flagship store draws loyal Chamberlin’s customers

Chamberlain's Market and Cafe celebrated the grand opening of its new Orlando flagship in November. | Photo by Hope Winsborough for Crain's Orlando

Longtime customers, curious shoppers, Magic 107.7 radio, and 20 vendors were on hand for the recent grand opening of Chamberlin’s Market & Cafe on East Colonial Drive in Orlando’s Herndon Village Shoppes.

The relocated flagship store, which replaces the Winter Park location that closed in May, includes an expanded produce section and a juice and coffee bar.

The turnout exceeded expectations, according to Chamberlin’s marketing representative Kim Capps, especially given the four-month span since the old store closed. “Chamberlin’s customers are so loyal. It’s a different customer base than you’d find in similar stores – with some who’ve been shopping with us for 30 to 40 years.”

Winter Park customers were advised to visit those Chamberlin’s closest to them during the interim, and those stores saw an uptick in business, Capps said. But they soon returned after the flagship reopened. “We were surprised how many people have been coming into the new store with the $5 discount coupon [distributed at checkout] back in May.”

Chamberlin’s was founded in Orlando in 1935 and has six Central Florida locations, including stores in Lakeland, Oveido and Kissimmee. The company was acquired by Food For Health Co. Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of AMCON Distributing Co., in 1999. AMCON’s fiscal 2016 earnings for the retail health food segment were $27.4 million, according to its fourth-quarter report, which describes the new location as part of “a meaningful investment in reimagining” the brand.

Among those Central Florida vendors at the grand opening was The Nourished Spoon, a Central Florida producer of gluten- and grain-free snacks. Owner Kelli Ehrhard says Nourished Spoon’s Chocolate Chunk and N’Oatmeal Raisin Cookie mixes were recently picked up by all six Chamberlin’s stores, and the new location also carries her maple cinnamon donuts and organic peanut butter cups.

Frog Song Organics, a certified organic produce grower based in Hawthorne, gave away free roselle hibiscus, which can be used to make “Florida Cranberry” sauce or a festive sorrel drink for the holidays. "Shoppers enjoyed trying something new," said co-owner Amy Van Scoik, noting that many recognized it from traditional drinks made by their families in Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East.

The Nov. 12 grand opening was Frog Song's first interaction with shoppers since being picked up by Chamberlin's earlier this year. "I met and spoke with at least 75 people," Scoik said. "It was a successful opening for us."

Moses Medina, co-owner of Lutz-based, natural hair and skin care line Vive Naturals, was surrounded by customers as he shared before-and-after photos of psoriasis patients who credit regular use of the all-natural and organic products with clearing up symptoms.

Chamberlin's parent AMCON is the seventh largest wholesale convenience store distributor in the U.S., with gross revenues of $1.2 billion. The 1999 acquisition of Chamberlin’s was controversial because cigarettes account for the largest portion of AMCON sales. AMCON’s health foods segment includes 16 stores, including Chamberlin’s and Akin’s Natural Food Markets, which is based in Tulsa, Okla.

While the convenience market generates the majority of its revenue, AMCON’s natural food segment has benefited from increasingly competitive growth, with revenues jumping by 10 percent annually from 2011 to 2014, according to SeekingAlpha.com. As of 2015, 3 percent of natural food grocers accounted for 85 percent of the total U.S. market, with Whole Foods representing 28 percent.

The old Chamberlin’s space in Winter Park Village is set to open in 2017 as Central Florida’s first REI location.

Follow Chamberlin's at @ChamberlinsFL

November 14, 2016 - 8:52am