ENGLEWOOD — When he saw Tyler Bohnsen at the front door greeting customers, Paul Hyatt’s eyes lit up with happiness.
“I’m so glad you were able to get a job here,” Hyatt told Bohnsen.
The pair met when Bohnsen worked at Englewood’s Save A Lot grocery store before it closed about nine months ago. Now they were in the same building, but now they were inside the Sunflower Discount Market on its opening day Friday.
“They made me the mayor for the day at the store’s grand opening,” Bohnsen told Hyatt as they shook hands.
Dressed in a tuxedo shirt and top hat, Bohnsen offered the first 100 customers a complementary bright yellow Sunflower Market cloth shopping bag. They were gone within the first half hour of the store’s opening at 9 a.m..
Just before the doors opened, owners Paul and Lisa Crawford cut the ribbon to their new grocery store that replaced Save A Lot. Using a giant scissors, supplied by Kim Parks, interim director of the Englewood Chamber of Commerce, the couple celebrated with chamber board members, supporters and customers who lined up along Englewood Square shopping center on 400 block of South Indiana Avenue.
One of those on line was former Save A Lot store employee Kris Horwath.
“We gave them their first dollar,” said Horwath who posed with the signed dollar bill for photos with her husband Yancey and the Crawfords.
“I know Tyler, the mayor for the day. He was the store manager at Save A Lot when it closed,” she said.
The Crawfords opened their first Sunflower Market discount grocery store in North Fort Myers a year ago. The market proved such a success, so they looked for another good spot and then decided to open their second location in Englewood.
“Things are going as well as we planned,” Paul Crawford said. “Our employees have helped us 110%. We appreciate their effort in helping us open and keep the shelves stocked. We are glad to have Tyler (Bohnsen) come work for us. We heard so many great things about him. We are happy he’s here. We have about a dozen employees and may hire more as we need them.”
Customer Paul Hyatt was not only happy to see Bohnsen, but loves the new store.
“I can ride here on my bike,” he said. “I’m going to tell all of my neighbors to come to this new store. It’s beautiful.”
The Crawfords understand the store will serve seniors and working parents on limited incomes. The Crawford’s say their prices are half of the cost of typical grocery stores.
Lisa explained how they work with local and national distributors, manufacturers, grocery stores and others in the food industry to get the best discounted prices. They acquire products that for one reason or another are not going to sell in traditional stores, whether for faulty packaging or mislabeling, discontinued items, or merchandise that is still good, but just past its “best-if-used-by” dates.
The Crawfords also built partnerships with local farmers, like those in Immokalee, for fresh produce. Sunflower Market must adhere to USDA and other safety standards.
However, that doesn’t mean they don’t sell Twinkies. They even have chocolate ones.
Open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, the store offers products made with cauliflower including mac and cheese, pizza and chips. They sell Basic Joe coffee and other name brands, organic dark chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, blackened chicken Alfredo, 9-inch sample cheesecake, a variety of crackers, cookies and teas, dairy-free pumpkin pie, chips, ham, beef and even Tofurky. They’ve got cleaning products and baby products.
Bohnsen, who worked at Save A Lot for eight years, is happy he now works for the Crawfords.
“I worked my way up from an employee to the store manager of Save A Lot,” he said. “Six months after I became the manager, they told us the store was closing. I was devastated. A lot of the employees were older and didn’t want to work with the coronavirus lingering. I went to work at Walmart.
“Last month I found out the Sunflower Market was opening at my old store. I asked for a job and they hired me. They are super cool people. They are really nice and care about their employees and their customers. We love it here.”
The owners also frequently update their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/SunflowerDiscount Market