ROGERS PARK — Patrons of the venerable Heartland Cafe can expect some big changes as Edgewater's True Nature Foods merges with the eatery to create "a bigger stronger food hub" in the neighborhood.
True Nature, a small organic market, decided to pick up and leave Edgewater after mega-chain Whole Foods announced it would be taking over the former Dominick's directly across the street.
Now, the two businesses centered on organic food are joining forces at 7000 N. Glenwood Ave. in Rogers Park.
Tom Rosenfeld, who took over the Heartland a few years ago, said to expect change — but the general mission of his establishment would remain the same.
"Right now we are a store, a bar and a restaurant," he said. "And after this change, we are going to be a store, a bar and a restaurant."
Ben Woodard highlights the big changes ahead for Heartland:
But the Heartland's interior will be flipped, he said. The main dining room in the southeast corner of the restaurant will become the new True Nature, while the small market Rosenfeld operates now would become the main dining area for the cafe.
In all, he expects to lose 15 seats in exchange for a cozier and more cohesive atmosphere indoors, he said, adding that the large patio would handle most customers during the summer.
When True Nature opens by mid-May, possibly sooner, the Heartland will become "a bigger stronger food hub" that the neighborhood has not seen before, he said.
Since he took over, Rosenfeld has used organic produce grown at his Michigan farm, Earth First Farms, in the restaurant. But now, with the True Nature merger, his crops will be sold directly to the neighborhood all week long.
For example, he said, in-season Earth First strawberries would be sold at the store and juiced at its juice bar, while also finding their way into restaurant dishes.
"The strawberries will come in the back door and end up everywhere," he said. "I'm kind of amazed by it, too."
True Nature will have its own doorway at the corner of Glenwood and Lunt avenues. He said he'll also repaint and update lighting.
Rosenfeld said he's heard nothing but positive reactions from Rogers Park neighbors, who are "really excited to get a natural-food grocery store … in the heart of Rogers Park," he said.
True Nature's move was first reported last week by Tribune columnist Mary Schmich.
Paula Companio had worked at True Nature before buying the business in 2001.
She said in an interview last week she had no ill will toward Whole Foods, which opens April 29.
"We want to keep this a peaceful venture," she said. "We’re all doing the same work; our [work] is just in a different neighborhood now."
Whole Foods and Companio, before the move was certain, struck a deal to sell True Nature Foods sandwiches in the store as part of an exclusive food line.
At the Heartland, she'll become Rosenfeld's business partner, and continue her work as an organic-food pioneer. All of her employees will also join her.
"It’s neighborhood change. It’s good neighborhood change," she said. "It’s progressive."
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