Ozark Natural Foods

Ozark Natural Foods

City: Fayetteville
Category: Category III (76-300 Employees)
Year: 2012

Ozark Natural Foods is a cooperative grocery store with a customer base that doesn’t just procure groceries; it also buys into the business.

“We’re the only cooperative grocery store in Arkansas,” said Alexa McGriff, marketing director. The grocery store, which originally opened in 1971, now has about 9,000 owners who individually or as a family own a share of the company. No family or person can own more than one share.

Such owners have privileges, including the ability to serve on or vote for the store’s governing board members. Owners also have the right to earn patronage funds, like dividends, when the store makes a profit.

With just one location and 95 employees, the store will top $12 million in revenue in 2012, company General Manager Alysen Land said.

Since Ozark Natural Foods’ customers are its owners, the opinions and needs of the customers get priority.

“We take comments and owner suggestions really seriously,” store manager Mike Anzalone said. “We answer every question with the understanding that this person is one of our owners. ... The board answers to the ownership. Ultimately, the ownership has the final say.”

More than 2,600 new owners committed $140 each to buy into Ozark Natural Foods in 2011, and the board hasn’t set a cap on how many owners the store can have.

Land said the model was profitable: From 2002-07, the store saw double-digit sales growth, and during the worst days of the Great Recession, the store still had 6 to 7 percent growth. In 2011, sales growth was back above 9 percent.

The grocery store strives to stock as many locally grown or made goods as possible. It also sells only organic produce and has an all-organic feed store.

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