ST. PETERSBURG — What started 21 years ago as a 2,000-square-foot health food store is about to become a 15,000-square-foot "wellness campus."
Rollin' Oats, at 2842 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, is doubling its size from a current 7,500 square feet to encompass a much larger grocery market, a 100-seat outdoor cafe, five yoga studios and a rooftop plaza for live music and lectures.
"In the last couple years it's just exploded in sales," said co-owner Bert Swain. "I really do think people see that you can shop in a store like this and it's not a bunch of weirdos."
The addition was planned long before the constant rumors that Whole Foods was scouting St. Petersburg or the fact that Trader Joe's is building a store on Fourth Street.
"We compete with Whole Foods in Tampa and we do fine," Swain said, referring to the sister store there. Trader Joe's and Fresh Market are more event-driven shopping, not where you get your weekly groceries, he added, so those stores aren't a big threat.
Rollin' Oats doesn't have the bulk purchasing power of Whole Foods and Publix, but it keeps costs low because it's nimble and flexible and has two local owners on the job.
"If there's not an owner there, it's not your business. There's no one sweating every last detail," said Swain, who owns the business with Larry Schwartz. He also touts the mantra of most independent businesses: personalized customer service.
But Rollin' Oats is not the corner store it once was. The St. Petersburg store has about 100 employees. Swain estimates that 20 more will come on board when all changes are completed by March. The addition will open long before, but once it does there will be a major renovation of the existing store space.
The yoga studios, which will be run by St. Pete Yoga, will open by February.
A two-story lobby will welcome shoppers and yogis together. A concrete circular staircase will have an artistic, winding metal railing made by St. Petersburg sculptor Alex Klahm.
Swain said they are spending millions on the addition, financed in part by Bank of America. The work started in the spring of 2012.
An 8,000-square-foot rooftop plaza wasn't on the original drawing board, but it's probably what Swain is most excited about.
A bar and seating will be in place soon. Swain pictures outdoor yoga, receptions with local music, and lectures about health and wellness.
"Look at that. You can see downtown from here," he said, sweeping his hand to the south to show the lit-up evening skyline of St. Petersburg.
Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.