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1501 Long Street, Chattanooga
Regular hours after May 10:
Monday through Saturday - 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sunday - 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
To find out the limited hours before May 10, check Enzo's Facebook page
Contact: 423-486-9312 www.enzosmarket.com
Lisa Strait strolled through the brightly lit aisles at Enzo's Market with a cart and a grin. The brand-new Southside grocery store solves one of her major shopping woes, and she couldn't be happier.
"I love Whole Foods," she said. "But I don't want everything organic. When I eat Raisin Bran, I want stale, sugary raisins -- I don't want organic raisins. So I end up going to two or three different places. But here they've got the good, healthy organic stuff and also the junky, mass-produced stuff that I want."
Strait was one of the first to shop at Enzo's Market. The long-awaited downtown grocery store saw its first-ever customers Wednesday evening. The locally-sourced shop is open with limited hours this week and will shift to regular store hours on May 10.
"Coming to downtown has been phenomenal," said Gavin Thomas, a co-owner at Enzo's. "It's clear the community really wanted this."
Not everything is quite ready at Enzo's this week. Owners are still working out the kinks with the computer system and some shelves aren't completely stocked. But customers still wandered in to look around and shop.
Co-owner Eric Cummings said the store's limited hours, which will be announced day-by-day on Enzo's Facebook page, will give them time to iron out all those final details before the store goes full-force on May 10.
"Be patient with us," he said.
The $4.5 million grocery store includes all the normal trappings -- a meat case, dairy case, bakery and seafood -- but also features an imported cheese section, vegetarian and gluten-free options, 28 feet of beer selections and a cafe that will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. There's room for about 180 people to sit and eat. They've hired 55 employees.
And, as Strait gleefully pointed out, the store features a unique product mix.
"We have brand-name items that most people will recognize, and we also have a strong representation on the organic and natural side, and then we have quite a bit of locally-made, harvested-here products," Thomas said.
About 25 percent of Enzo's products are conventional. The goal is to appeal to a wide audience while also attracting customers who love high-quality, local food.
"We're focused on groceries," co-owner Sam Turner said. "We're not going to sell bike tires and furniture."
Enzo's has 50 parking spots and parking is free for customers. The 17,000-square-foot store includes a separate wine retailer, called The Wine Shop, that will open next week.
The grocery store has been in the works for a long time, and Cummings, Thomas and Turner hit roadblock after roadblock as they fought to bring their vision to life.
"It was like a full-frontal lobotomy," Cummings said. "It was really tough."
After buying the building in 2008, the group struggled to find financing.
"Number one, banks weren't loaning," Cummings said. "And number two, we're a start-up, local grocery store. Nobody wanted to give money to that."
Eventually, the group found funding from an out-of-town lender, and construction was under way by the end of 2012. As the building took shape, owners realized the logistics of setting up a store with a product mix of conventional and locally-sourced items was tricky. Distributor after distributor turned them down.
"That was extraordinarily frustrating," Cummings said. "Usually when it comes to distributors, they want to do the whole store, and that's why all stores look the same. We said no, we only want you to do 25 percent of our stuff."
But now, the old warehouse has been transformed into a sleek, urban grocery store and cafe with shiny metal chairs, peppy music and red-apron wearing staff.
"Turning an old building into this is somthing that was extremetly difficult, but we love it," Cummings said. "We love design and we love creating public spaces. It's kind of what we do."
Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at email@example.com or 423-757-6525.