After a temporary closure of almost two months, Flint Hills Market and Bakery in Florence will reopen at 9 a.m. Saturday under new management and with a new direction.
“I’m not sure if we’re going to get everything on the shelves or be at full inventory by Saturday,” store owner Judy Mills said, “but, yes, we are going to open, and [Florence resident] Karen Williams will manage it.”
Mills and Williams will team up to operate the store and manage five teenagers they plan to employ. Both women also will work in the deli and bakery.
“I told my husband that I never thought I’d be working in a grocery store in the later years of my life,” Mills said. “But they say life is circular. I used to play grocery store when I was a kid. Karen did, too.”
“We’re a good team,” Williams said. “We’re honest with each other about what we think will work and what won’t work for the store.”
Along with some new art and repurposed, rustic décor on the walls and in the aisles, Williams said there would be some notable changes to store services and merchandise once everything is in place.
“Things are going to be different here,” Williams said. “There is going to be something for everyone here, but most everything in the store will be organic food. We’re going to be Marion County’s organic alternative.”
She said she would try to accommodate people who are consciously concerned about the food they consume as well as people who are willing to try eating healthier food.
“People are getting smarter and very choosy about what they eat,” Williams said. “I am very passionate about eating healthy and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and trying to help people see the light. I used to run a gym. This is just the food side of it.”
She teaches water aerobics, and used to teach fitness classes in a studio at Bown-Corby in Marion.
Williams said they are considering the possibility of offering classes and events centered on an organic lifestyle.
Williams wants to feature guest cooks who specialize in different cuisines on a semi-regular basis. She also wants to use the store’s patio to host outdoor events.
“This place and this town is so unique we’d like to get people to venture out and see that there is more than meets the eye here in Florence,” Williams said.
Saturday’s soft opening will feature a guest cook who will make pulled pork sliders, she said.
Conventional and organic produce, beef and bison meat, bulk coffee, rotisserie chicken, gluten-free items, and a salad bar join the list of updates and changes along with the return of the deli and bakery.
“Organic food is not as expensive as it used to be,” Williams said. “It tastes better and is better for your body.”
Organic products will come from distributors that serve Whole Foods, The Mercantile in Lawrence, and other retailers of organic products.
Williams said those companies have stringent requirements for foods labeled “organic.” For fruits and vegetables to be sold as organic, no herbicides were used for weed control, no pesticides were used for insect control, and no chemical fertilizers were used to produce them, Williams said.
“There’s also going to be a groovy candy counter with 33 different types of candy,” Williams said. “I’m sure some people will remember some of our candies from their childhood.”
The duo expressed a feeling of dedication toward Florence’s need for a grocery store.
“Judy and I are dear friends and very stubborn people,” Williams said. “We knew people wanted a store for this town. We’re the type that roll up our sleeves and will get it done.”
“I’ve had this vision for so long,” Mills said. “It’s been hard to get it to fruition but we’re going to do it if it kills us. The town needs a grocery store.”
Williams said the store’s regular hours would be 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.