“Lot of exciting things going on in this block,” said Chris Read, founder of Arnada Naturals. “Starting in January of this year, our sales have been better than they’ve ever been.”
Arnada Naturals continues to make a name for itself after six years in the natural food and products industry. Arnada specializes in gluten-free and dairy-free products, along with natural supplements, beauty and body care. The shop – located at 2407 Main Street in Vancouver – is known for its locally brewed Kombucha and Ginger Brew on tap and freshly delivered gluten-free bread.
Arnada moved from its location on Broadway and 17th to Uptown Village in Spring 2013. It has been an unpredictable transition due to several abandoned spaces surrounding the store for the last two years, but the neighborhood has undergone a host of new updates.
“When [Trap Door Brewing] opens next month,” Read explained, “it will be the first business conducted next door in two years.”
Trap Door Brewing, a full-service brewery, will join Bleu Door Bakery, which recently added a new restaurant space. Based on the “new vibrancy in Uptown Village,” Read said Arnada will expand its hours to 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. after Labor Day.
Last year’s boost to Uptown Village came from the opening of Main Street Marijuana, which sits caddy-corner to Arnada.
“How do you even quantify what that did for Main Street and Uptown Village?” Read conjectured. “When they first opened… everyday for the first two weeks, there was nonstop traffic, just driving up and down the street to see it.”
Read sees one goal of Uptown Village as creating a livable, walkable community that serves patrons from surrounding neighborhoods. Parking is one challenge the shopping district faces, but others are less tangible.
“The wild card is summer days above 90 degrees,” said Read. “It certainly affects traffic and walk-ins, especially in the afternoon.”
Being a smaller, niche business means Arnada can be more affected by such factors. Competition with larger stores has also given Arnada a run for its money.
“A lot of these larger stores can be quite aggressive with their marketing budgets,” said Read. “Sometimes other little stores are causalities.”
But so far, Read has found that his sales dip only around the first month these larger stores open. Read has seen both sides of the coin, after working with Whole Foods Market at one of its first stores in Southwest Texas in the early 90s. After moving to the Pacific Northwest in the late 90s, Read worked as a broker selling to health food stores before opening Arnada in 2010.
“[The bigger chains] often have a corporate buyer who’s buying for a region who’s often in an office that’s far removed from the actual location,” said Read. “We’re able to stay on the pulse of what our customers are interested in and I’m able to personally try almost everything that we carry.”
Arnada serves regulars from Arnada, Lincoln, Carter Park, Hough and Schumway neighborhoods, and even sees customers from Salmon Creek, Battle Ground and Portland. Read said Arnada clients are generally nutrition-savvy, working professionals who not only care about their health but also about local businesses.
“My clientele is awesome and super supportive,” Read said. “Folks are routinely thanking me that I’m saving them a trip across the bridge or to East County.”
Arnada has seen the trend toward organic, non-GMO certified and gluten-free only intensify over the last few years. With non-GMO certified foods resonating on the ballots in Oregon and Washington, Read’s customers appreciate that his product lines had already embraced those certifications. He has also seen gluten-free become more of a mainstay than a fringe offering.
“It seemed like for the first couple years, I would have folks that were glad to find gluten-free options and others who would completely question it,” explained Read. “About three years in… it seemed like everybody was happy to find gluten-free options or knew somebody that they could refer.”