Food & Thought 2 organic market opens in North Naples –

The organic market to complement the Food & Thought 2 restaurant in North Naples finally launched with a soft opening on the last day of 2022.

“We’re open right now with about 50% of the items we’re going to have in another couple of weeks from now,” co-owner Alfie Oakes said on the store’s first day of business Saturday on New Year’s Eve. “We had to kind of push the opening to this date for tax reasons. We can depreciate all the equipment and everything on this year’s taxes. With the new Biden tax policy, we can only do 80% next year and we can do 100% this year, plus we can get the benefit this year.”

The new market saw 800 to 1,000 customers on its opening day, Oakes said. “People have been loving it. They love the feel and energy of the store.”

The market joins the Food & Thought 2 all-organic restaurants that opened in mid-June in a Fountain Square space that used to be Founders Bistro, the Original Pancake House and Calistoga Bakery Cafe. The restaurant and market off Airport-Pulling Road share outdoor seating between them in an expansive courtyard that’s also a work in progress.

“I think in about two more weeks from now we’re going to be at about 100%. We’ll have the fire pit outside. We have the sunscreen up out there and then we’ll have our gluten-free bakery and deli all open and the cheese and guacamole bar,” Oakes said.

Some of the market’s stations are not operational yet. The juice bar and sections for produce, wine, beverages, health products and grab-and-go meals are stocked and available at the new general store but shelves were still empty this weekend for its bakery, deli and dairy sections.

Food & Thought 2 co-owner Randy Johns, who also is behind Naples-based Phoenix Associates construction company, asked Oakes to join the Founders Market & Bistro operation last year but Oakes initially declined. “He talked me into coming in here,” Oakes said. “I told him the only way I’m coming in is if we can enclose the area that used to be an outdoor porch. I said I’m not going to do a store that’s this small. I need to have dimensions.”

The floor-to-ceiling transformation changed the atmosphere of the small space. The low ceiling was raised and the store achieved a brighter, more modern look.

“A lot of new concepts that we’re doing aren’t even in place yet,” Oakes said. For instance, digital screens above each display area for fresh fruits and vegetables will have information and recipes for the items, many of them locally grown by Oakes Farms. The high-tech features even will extend to a digital display for shelf labels. “That’s probably again a week or two away,” he said, noting that a unique round TV screen will be another cutting-edge feature that will be installed this month. “Just some neat stuff.”

Even with all the new technology and renovations, Food and Thought 2 was relatively easy for Oakes after the massive depth and breadth of his Seed to Table store, which was years in the making before it launched in December 2019 in North Naples. “Once you do Seed to Table you feel like you can handle just about anything,” Oakes said, adding that Seed to Table requires a staff of 700 or 800 while Food and Thought 2 will need 60 to 80 people. Food & Thought 2 Market in North Naples

“We’ve got an amazing core staff here. We’re still building our team. We have a job fair next week so we’re still adding people,” he said.

A stage for live music is set up right outside the market’s door leading to the courtyard it shares with its restaurant. The courtyard’s new components also will launch mid-month. “I think for sure by the 15th of January we’ll be rockin’ and a rolling here,” Oakes said.

The artisan bread that will be sold at the store is all made at Seed to Table, but the Food & Thought 2 market will have a kitchen dedicated to gluten-free baking to avoid cross-contamination. “In this kitchen back here, we’ve got a pretty big area that is going to be the gluten-free bakery because it’s got to be separate from everything. The gluten-free bakery will make everything for all of our stores,” Oakes said.

In addition to Seed to Table and the new Food & Thought 2, Oakes also owns the original Food & Thought store in Naples and Oakes Farms Market in East Naples. His longtime market on Davis Boulevard remains temporarily closed after being damaged last fall by storm surge from Hurricane Ian. Oakes has yet to solidify renovation plans or a construction timeline to improve the store. “Not yet, but it will be better than ever when we figure it out,” he said.

Oakes also recently acquired commercial property in southern Bonita Springs to take some of the kitchen stress off of the Seed to Table bakery. “We’re going to be doing a commissary to do the bread because we’re doing like 4,000 loaves of bread a night and we’re running out of room at Seed to Table,” he said. “So, we’re going to do a commissary bakery back behind the (former greyhound) track in that industrial area. We probably won’t be operational there for another six months.” Food & Thought 2 Market in North Naples

Some fresh bread also is already being made at the Food & Thought 2 restaurant, Oakes said. “We’ve got an amazing pastry chef and bread chef here that does such great work. So, they’re making some of their own fresh bread for the restaurant,” he said. “We have incredible talent in the kitchen. We’ve got several people in there that were executive chefs at other places.”

Food and Thought 2 General Manager and Executive Chef Dan Kniola recently returned to his country club culinary roots but he left the restaurant operation in good hands, Oakes said. “The amazing thing is that Dan left and I think Dan did such an amazing job, as a good manager does, that we really didn’t miss a beat,” he said. “We are still actively pursuing the right candidate for that position because we’ve got a lot of items that we want to add. We’re in a perfect spot.”

The Food and Thought 2 grocery store, 7941 Airport-Pulling Road, is open 7 am to 9 pm Monday through Saturday and 8 am to 4 pm Sunday.

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