Edgeville Buzz

True Nature Foods Leaving Edgewater, Merging With Heartland Cafe

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True Nature Foods Owner, Paula Companio

True Nature Foods in Edgewater will be merging with the Heartland Café in Rogers Park sometime in June, owners of both businesses said on Monday, April 13.

Paula Companio said her decision to move True Nature Foods to the Heartland Café is in some ways a response to Whole Foods’ plans to open a big box store across the street from her current location at 6034 N. Broadway St. on April 29.

“When Alderman (Harry Osterman) told me that Whole Foods was coming in, it was like a cosmic two-by-four,” she said. “I really didn’t expect it. My whole life flashed in front of me. I very quickly began organizing what would be best for my team, myself, and of course the green movement.”

So when Tom Rosenfeld called her in January and asked her if she would be interested in merging their two businesses, “I couldn’t say no. I just said yes when he asked me. I didn’t even think twice. It’s just a good fit.”

Rosenfeld has owned the Heartland Café restaurant since June 2012, but he’s in his 10th season as a grower and farmer. Companio, in fact, was Rosenfeld’s first certified organic farm customer, purchasing fruit and vegetables grown on 49 acres in Berrien Center, Michigan. That’s 100 miles from downtown Chicago, Rosenfeld said.

Yet there are other benefits to the merger, the two business owners and soon-to-be business partners said. Rosenfeld and Companio both have similar business philosophies. They are both straightforward with customers and staff. They are both transparent with customers. They both support organic products. They both believe food is an important element of health.

And independent of Whole Foods’ decision to open a store just across the street from True Nature Foods, Rosenfeld was also tinkering with how to tweak his business model. After taking over the Heartland Café restaurant in 2012, he had turned the eclectic store that was also on the property into a very small natural food grocery store. That was really successful, he said, “So we were thinking, ‘How do we expand on that idea?’ So it all kind of came together at once.”

“Heartland was a store, a restaurant and a bar, and after the merger, it will be a store, a restaurant and a bar,” Rosenfeld said. “What this does is put more emphasis on the store. Paula kind of steps in as the operations partner for the store.”

While Companio does plan to bring the favorite current menu and juice bar items to the Rogers Park location, it’s too early to say what other items will be added to the menu. “But I can tell you that our breakfast Reuben will still be on the menu,” she laughed. “That’s actually what people are saying to me, ‘Are you bringing the Reuben?’”

Moving to The Heartland Café will mean a bigger kitchen with ovens, walk-in coolers, an outdoor café, and a seating area, she said.

Meanwhile, Companio describes the move as a peaceful venture.

“It is really all good for everybody — the community, my team, Rogers Park and the Heartland Café team,” she said. “We really are looking forward to it, and we really have a good relationship with Whole Foods.”

In fact, Whole Foods will be selling a line of sandwiches made by True Nature Foods, Companio said. The big box store even knew of her plans to merge with the Heartland Café before her plans were announced over the weekend, she said.

“They have been nothing but nice to us,” she said. “When you put your sandwiches in (Whole Foods), you have to talk to a lot of different people, and … everyone has been encouraging. We are all working for the same thing. We are all working to put organic foods into the masses. What Whole Foods and I quickly realized is that they just work for a corporation. I’m an independent business owner. But we both have the same ideas.”

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