Story at a glance:

  • An old IGA grocery store was transformed into a hip co-op in the heart of Fayetteville, Arkansas.
  • modus studio worked with BLKBOX to bring the new retail experience to life.
  • The Ozark Natural Foods Co-Op combines shopping with community and sustainability.

Turn a boring, “big empty box” into a lively co-op. That was the mission modus studio embarked on when they began envisioning how to transform an old IGA grocery building into a bright and welcoming store in the heart of Fayetteville, Arkansas.

“Formerly housing a grocery store chain that had been limping along for decades, the building and parking lot sat empty for months, giving off food desert vibes in this very central location between residential, university campus, and downtown commercial areas,” says Chris Baribeau, principal architect at modus studio.

While this prime location sat neglected, locally owned grocery cooperative Ozark Natural Foods Co-Op (circa 1971) was looking to relocate for a more centralized location to provide the community with healthy, natural, and organic products.

“Modus Studio was challenged to reposition this long-time grocery store facility in the hearts and minds of the community and create an engaging example of how adaptation and reuse can be one of the most sustainable decisions a business can make,” Chris Baribeau says.

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Inside the modus studio–designed co-op in Arkansas. Photo by Timothy Hursley

The modus studio design team, alongside designers at BLKBOX who were tasked with rebranding efforts, approached the renovation as a chance to rethink what it means to be a community food co-op in the 2020s.

Leadership at Ozark Natural Foods Co-Op knew shoppers were shifting away from the typical weekly grocery list shopping trip, and instead were moving more toward multiple short trips. “Capitalizing on this, as well as the new, more centralized location, the new design was developed as a community hub spot model,” Chris Baribeau says.

The new 32,400-square-foot co-op features a larger farm and garden section and focuses on an expanded food area with flexible indoor seating and a 26-foot-wide, 117-foot-long covered patio for outdoor seating. Also serving the dining areas is a coffee shop with local coffee from Onyx Coffee Lab and a taproom pouring exclusively local and regional beers.

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An expanded plant area makes up part of the new Ozark Natural Foods Co-Op. Photo by Timothy Hursley

The building and its new and improved surroundings are as inviting as they are useful. “Native vegetation serves as eye-level interest and as a sound buffer between cars and patio patrons,” says Leanne Baribeau, associate architect at the firm. “Modus Studio’s own fabrication team built numerous custom elements of the building, including bike and scooter racks, a beer tap system, a live-edge wood slab bar top, sculptural door pull, and an array of patio furniture components.”

The project also comes with many sustainable features, including the crowd favorite front porch, which runs the length of the building. While offering up a sense of community, the porch also shades the western facade from the warm afternoon sun. Other green building strategies include solar tubes, LED lighting throughout the project, locally sourced southern yellow pine, a hot water reclamation system for the refrigeration rack, native plantings, and a low-impact site design. Future project phases will include solar arrays, edible landscaping, a cistern system for rainwater collection, and a pavilion that will house a public bus stop and bike/scooter parking to encourage alternative transportation.

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The co-op porch establishes a new street-facing identity and a welcoming community hub while increasing square footage without adding more conditioned space. Photo by Timothy Hursley

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Photo by Timothy Hursley

Project Credits

Name: Ozark Natural Foods Co-Op
Location: Fayetteville, AR
Completed: May 2020
Size: 32,400 square feet
Architect: modus studio
Civil Engineer: Bates + Associates
Structural Engineer: Tatum Smith Welcher
MEP Engineer: Engineering Elements
Contractor: Nabholz Corporation
Landscape Architect: Flintlock Architecture + Landscape

modus studio ozark natural foods gbd magazine floorplan

Ozark Natural Foods Co-op. Floorplan courtesy of Modus Studio