Stonyfield alliance expected to boost O'Naturals

BY Robert M. Cook

Photo/Courtesy Stonyfield Farm
Photo/Courtesy Stonyfield Farm
The new Stonyfield Cafe in Falmouth

The doors of the new Stonyfield Café in Falmouth have just opened and people are already buzzing with excitement about the new alliance between O'Naturals and Stonyfield Farms, says Mac MacCabe.

"We're already feeling it," says MacCabe, CEO of O'Naturals. The former O'Naturals restaurant has undergone a renovation and reopened as Stonyfield Café on Friday.

The rebranding couldn't have come at a better time for O'Naturals. The Falmouth-based organic food restaurant chain, which employs roughly 20 full-time and part-time people, had a tough year in 2009 that culminated with the closure of its Portland restaurant on Exchange Street last summer, says MacCabe. He says O'Naturals' sales in 2009 were just over $1 million. He believes Stonyfield Farms' strong nationwide recognition will help his business do well, boosting 2010 sales by 20%.

Gary Hirshberg, who calls himself the "CE-Yo" and owner of Stonyfield Farms in Londonderry, N.H., co-founded O'Naturals in Falmouth in 2001. The restaurant has enjoyed a devoted customer base since then, MacCabe says, and has served more than 3 million meals in those nine years.

There are four other O'Naturals restaurants, including one at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston and another one in Wichita, Kans. Hirshberg believes that when the Falmouth restaurant enjoys higher sales volume, the other four organic eateries will become Stonyfield Cafes.

Hirshberg started Stonyfield Farms in 1983 and the company's sales have grown from $78 million in 2001 to $330 million in 2009. He projects sales in 2010 will hit $340 million.

Hirshberg serves as chairman of O'Naturals and is the largest shareholder of both O'Naturals and Stonyfield Farms. When O'Naturals' downtown Portland restaurant closed last year, Hirshberg says, "It caused us to look at the whole concept."

Hirshberg says the idea to create Stonyfield Café also represents the two companies' attempt to stimulate more sales volume in spite of the recession. "It's a little bit of Yankee grit and determination," he says.

The revamped restaurant features the same organic menu as O'Naturals, but offers new items such as Stonyfield Farms' Tart soft serve yogurt and fresh fruit smoothies. O'Natural's customers will notice a major graphics change with whole walls displaying images of Maine farms that supply many of the organic ingredients of the restaurant's food items.

Many of the materials used in the construction redesign of the Falmouth restaurant are also environmentally friendly and recycled, in keeping with the eatery's Earth-friendly mission.