Rachael Ellzey’s wallflowers are anything but shrinking.
On a recent Wednesday at the new Virginia’s Health Food store in the Midtown Mart Shopping Center, the diminutive artist stood on a ladder topped with a small pot of paint while she detailed gargantuan sunflowers so bold, intricate and lifelike that they looked like they could swallow up their tiny creator.
“I tried to make them organic and flowy because sunflowers can be cheesy and perfect and round,” Ellzey said.
Ellzey’s mega-sunflowers fill the walls of Virginia’s Sunflower Cafe, a sweet and relaxing spot for delectable, organic salads, sandwiches and more healthy meals.
Earlier this year Virginia’s relocated after seven years at Pinebrook Shopping Center on Airport Blvd. The new WholeFoods is at Pinebrook and Virginia’s owner Lynnora Lee Ash didn’t want her store to be overshadowed by the chain.
Ellzey is one of the local artists Ash and her architect tapped to gift the store’s new location with a fresh, homegrown atmosphere that complements the products and sets it apart from WholeFoods and other chains.
“I want to keep Mobile as a focus. We’re not corporate,” Ash said. “Virginia’s has been family-owned for forty years. We try to get as many local products as we can, and that’s where the local artists came in.”
Virginia’s, founded by Virginia Jakeman, is the oldest health food store in Mobile.
It was ahead of its time.
Decades before everyone became obsessed with organic and gluten-free foods, Virginia’s was a haven for folks focused on fresh, natural foods and people with unique nutritional needs and special diets.
The store continues to stock as many local products as possible, and is also an oasis of high quality natural foods, cosmetics, soaps, skincare products, house cleaning products, organic frozen meals, a staggering selection of nutritional supplements and much more.
Ash, a former Virginia’s employee, acquired the business from Jakeman’s daughter in 1993. The store was situated in the mall directly across the street from its new location for 32 years before relocating to Pinebrook.
Now that it’s moved again, Ash had the chance to develop Virginia’s new image from scratch.
Her first step was finding a visionary architect with respect for the wholesome and influential Mobile institution.
Ash trusted Daphne-based Casburn Brett Architecture with the task of making the store an enticing Port City-centered destination.