Oakes Farms' Seed to Table store in North Naples faces delays, won't open in November
The opening date for the much anticipated Seed to Table store in North Naples has changed again.
The store at Livingston and Immokalee roads won't open in early November as planned, due mostly to construction delays.
"We don't really have a firm opening date yet, but we are behind," said Alfie Oakes, the founder and CEO of Naples-based Oakes Farms, which is building the massive project.
The store is "really taking shape," he said, and there are expectations of finishing construction by the end of November. However, more time will be needed to build out a parking lot across the street, hire employees and ramp up operations.
Hiring could be tricky because it will be done at the start of the busy season. The supply of labor will be even tighter then, with so many workers already snatched up by competitors in preparation for the wave of seasonal residents and visitors.
"We've hired some of our key people, some of our management," Oakes said. "It's too far out to really hire the bulk of it."
He expects to hire about 400 full-time and part-time employees to operate the store.
Under a joint-use lease agreement with Collier County, the Seed to Table store plans to use county-owned land on the west side of Livingston Road as a parking lot for the store's employees. But a rezoning of the vacant property from residential to commercial is required.
A public hearing on the rezoning is scheduled for Aug. 16 before the Collier County Planning Commission, which will make a recommendation to county commissioners. The County Commission will make the final decision on the land use change. A permit would be required for the work.
With its on-site parking and the parking lot across the street, the store would have about 550 spaces. Dunkin' Donuts is nearby, but it has parking of its own and it has no plans to move, with "a few years at least" left on its lease, Oakes said.
Oakes Farms Inc. purchased the former Albertsons supermarket and its 7-acre lot at 4835 Immokalee Road for $5 million in 2014, with ambitious plans for its first Seed to Table store.
The project has faced numerous delays, with many additions and changes to the plans along the way.
The destination store promises to be a foodies’ paradise. It will be a combination of concepts that includes Oakes’ produce and seafood markets and Food & Thought’s healthy cuisine, along with Thoughtful Threads’ organic clothing store.
The store, spanning about 65,000 square feet, will be packed with a variety of retail service departments. It also will have a food court, an outdoor café overlooking a flower garden, and smoothie, juice and wine bars. Other features will include a bookstore, lounge and children’s playground.
The opening date has changed many times.
Initially, Oakes hoped to open the store Nov. 6, 2015.
The Nov. 6 date is when Alfie Oakes and his father, the late Frank Oakes, opened the original Oakes Farms Market on Davis Boulevard in East Naples more than 20 years ago. That date also is the birthday of Alfie’s wife and grandfather — and when the Oakes family opened the Food & Thought organic market and café in Naples more than a decade ago.
When the initial opening date for Seed to Table didn't work out, Oakes pushed it to November 2016, then to November 2017, then to November 2018. He said he really doesn't want to postpone it by another year, despite the importance of his target date.
The store could open as early as January or as late as August of next year, unless Oakes ultimately decides to wait until November.
"It could roll around until the next November, but I'm hoping not," he said. "It really would be nice to get that thing spinning."
He continues to get calls daily from area residents who are eager for the store to open.
"It's humbling," he said. "I get so many calls every day, every single day."