A hand-painted map of Mobile sprawls along the wall of the Sunflower Cafe in Virginia’s Health Foods, each pristine line drawn to scale. The mural strengthens the main idea behind the local grocery’s new design and relocation: It was born and bred right here in the Port City.
Virginia’s has been a city staple for nearly four decades, selling organic, locally produced food, as well as specialty items for restricted diets such as vegan and gluten-free.
Lynnora Ash took over Virginia’s Health Foods after the store’s namesake passed away in 1993. Since then, she has been leading people to healthier lives. Ash also owns Fairhope Health Foods.
“We had the same goals, to help people lead healthier lives and to help people grow older more gracefully, ” Ash says.
In February of this year, Virginia’s relocated to Midtown Mobile and, in the process, redefined their entire look.
“We’ve used the design to celebrate Lynnora’s history here, ” says Courtney Casburn Brett, the Mobile-based architect behind the redesign.
Everything from the traffic flow of the store itself to the artistry in the shop’s signage reflects the intimate neighborhood atmosphere.
One of the biggest undertakings for the redesign of the space was an 82-foot-long facade at the store’s entrance that reads, “Proud to be homegrown in South Alabama.” Ameri’ca Jones, a Fairhope-based artist, contributed her creativity and experience to the project.
The sculptural wall decor and signage are “all reclaimed shutters, with some of them Old Mobile, truly antique shutters. We paired them with steel laser-cut letters, ” Jones says. “It’s definitely got that feel of, ‘This is Mobile, ’ really anchored into the business.”
Jones also painted the mural map in Virginia’s Sunflower Cafe, a clean and green eatery that is more prominently featured in the new location.
Ash’s collaboration with Brett and Jones, along with the Lanier Construction team, allowed her to create her dream store. “We’ve been here for almost 40 years. I love the antiquity of the town and the loyalty of the people, ” Ash says.
And the new location showcases that to a T, giving shoppers the chance to support local people and businesses and enrich their health in a new way.
“It’s still a grocery store, but it’s a different experience, ” Brett says. For Ash, that beats out anything else.
The Sunflower Cafe, inside the shop, offers flavorful and healthful dishes, with plenty of menu items catering to customers with dietary restrictions.