By Kristie Snyder,
A bright light in an otherwise dim economy, GreenStar's Oasis continues to perform beyond expectations. Oasis Manager Cilla Cartland cites physical improvements, thoughtful product offerings and, most importantly, great customer service as the reasons why.
GreenStar members voted by a 3-to-1 margin in early 2004 to buy the foundering privately-owned Oasis Natural Foods store located in downtown Ithaca's Dewitt Mall, and GreenStar opened the store as GreenStar Oasis in May 2004. Seven years later, the store is thriving, though there have been some tough times along the way.
"I think of Oasis as 'the little store that could,'" said GreenStar's Interim General Manager Brandon Kane. "GreenStar purchased, with a tremendous amount of goodwill, a business that was failing for many reasons, and we dealt with that perception for a number of years," he said. "We knew we had to remodel the whole store. But we had a core staff from the prior business who were motivated, educated and super-dedicated to Oasis' success — they really stuck it out."
"There was an immediate turnaround in sales after the first major remodel," he continued. "And now, under Cilla's and Suzanne's [Johnson, Assistant Oasis Manager] direction, the store has reached its potential."
Over the past few years, improvements have included adding a hot bar, meats and beer to the product offerings, along with changing the layout and revamping or replacing nearly every physical aspect of the store, including cooler and freezer cases, lighting, paint, dining area furnishings and flooring.
"Now that the major improvements have been done, we're going aisle by aisle looking at the little things, to make sure everything looks good, is in the right place, and is what people want," Cilla said. "We like to hear what people want. We work really hard at changing up what we offer," she added.
"I want to emphasize how awesome the staff is and the dedication they have to the customers — some of our staff have been here for 20 years," she said. "It feels great in here, I hear people talking about that, and the customer service here really has a lot to do with that feeling — there's not a lot of turnover, and our staff knows half or more of our customers by name."
Oasis staff member Nat Barton, who has worked at the store for six years, agreed. "The size of the store allows us to know our customers better," he said. "But my number one thing about Oasis is Cilla and Suzanne — the combination of the two of them have really improved the store all around," he added.
The efforts have paid off with double-digit sales growth over previous years.
"I feel like the word is out that we're here and we've got what you're looking for," Cilla said. "Our previous record sales are now normal." This summer, Cilla made the decision to keep the store open an hour later in response to customer requests. Sales jumped in response. "I expected sales to go down in the winter, but they didn't," she said, which bodes well for the spring, when downtown foot traffic picks up.
"It's doing better than we could have ever imagined — sales have grown over 20 percent from 2010. They have stayed in the double-digit growth percentages for two years straight now," said Brandon. That strong performance could anchor GreenStar in the future.
"We're looking to big changes that may affect the West-End store — Oasis will remain our strong downtown anchor while GreenStar as a whole undergoes some major changes," Brandon said. "I really am incredibly proud of their achievements."
GreenStar at DeWitt Mall (Oasis) is a cozy downtown natural foods market nestled in the historic Dewitt Mall, just blocks from Ithaca’s renowned Commons. Whether you’re looking for a hot meal, a few vitamins, your week’s groceries or just a cup of tea, Oasis has got the goods.
New at Oasis
|Keep it Klean With a Klean Kanteen|
We're thinking ahead a little —get some holiday shopping done early with our great gift selection of sustainable goods.
Here at DeWitt we're gearing up for the holiday season with a variety of great gift-giving options. Socks stop being cliché when you buy supersoft, colorful, organic Pact socks — made of non-GMO, Fair-Trade, and 100-percent organic cotton. Who wouldn't love a Klean Kanteen insulated bottle? These are 100-percent stainless steel BPA-free containers with no harmful liners, from a B Corporation that practices fair labor, produces sustainable products, and promotes reuse. Ready for holiday parties? If you're dashing from work to gathering, pop into our downtown location and grab one of Angie's Popcorn Holidrizzle varieties: Iced Gingerbread, White Chocolatier Peppermint, and Dark Chocolatier Sea Salt. Angie's offers non-GMO products containing only natural ingredients. Alter Eco truffles are divine, made by a Fair-Trade company committed to compostable packaging. Try not to eat the whole box on the way to the party!
The local bounty continues, brought to you by the sweat and toil of farmers -— surely something to be thankful for.
November ... the local bounty is bestowed upon us, plowed under the sweat-browed gaze of toiling farmers, as crouched workers pick and pull on bent knees with earth-covered hands. We stay warm within the confines of our offices and coffee shops, but those...