Strawberry Fields, World Harvest to Merge in Urbana
In about a month, fans of Strawberry Fields Natural Food Market in Urbana and World Harvest International & Gourmet Foods in Champaign won’t have to make two stops any more.
Mohammad AL-Heeti, the owner of both stores, said he is planning to combine them into one at his Urbana Strawberry Fields location at 306 W. Springfield Ave. by mid-April.
“We are going to keep both names,” said AL-Heeti. “It will remain Strawberry Fields Café with World Harvest next to it. We’ll have the identity of both stores.”
AL-Heeti said consolidating both stores will be “more convenient” for his customers, many of whom are expressing pleasure at the news.
“The feedback I am getting from my customers, they are supporting it 100 percent,“ he said. “Also, it will let us focus more on both businesses instead of jumping between two buildings.”
AL-Heeti said the Strawberry Fields location, which he opened in July 2015, has a bigger parking lot and that he owns the building. He leases the current World Harvest building at 519 E. University Ave., which he first opened in 2000.
The 25 employees of both stores will all retain their jobs.
While some product lines, such of breakfast cereals, energy bars, snack chips and households goods will be dropped or reduced in size, most of the most popular features of both stores will be kept. The vitamins and supplements aisles will stay and the World Harvest cheese deli, featuring European, popular domestic and some local cheeses, is being added.
Fans of the World Harvest style pita-bread falafel, bigger and a little more expensive than the Strawberry Fields flatbread falafel, will be pleased, as both types of falafels will soon be sold.
The Urbana store also has just added bulk sales of flavored olive oils, including truffle, basil, oregano and lemon flavors. Bulk sales of balsamic vinegars, including Tuscan and herb, are also now available.
Local meats, spices, ethnic products, pastas, nuts, grains, dried fruits, coffee beans, local dairy and organic produce will continue to be offered. The store will also retain its popular bakery and the deli restaurant and coffee shop.
The deli will continue to offer a variety of hot meals each day, including some vegan and gluten-free choices, as well as vegan deserts. The deli also offers a variety of sandwiches including beef or chicken kabob, a quinoa burger and beef basturami.
“We try to be really unique,” said AL-Heeti, a native of Iraq who emigrated to American in 1982. “The majority of our customers are familiar with both places. I’m sure they are going to like it. We’ll have the same products and they’ll see the same faces.”