The Kiva Gets a Facelift

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The Kiva Gets a Facelift
by Ryan Beltram

A local Eugene institution is getting its first major face-lift.  Open for more than 40 years, The Kiva grocery store has served Eugene residents at the corner of 11th and Olive with the idea that everything they sell is healthy and organic.  Locally owned and operated since its inception, The Kiva has resided at it’s current location since 1983 and if you’ve been in there, you know the space is certainly quaint.

The familiar face of the Kiva

But what they lack in size they make up for  in charm.  If you’ve ever wanted to know  the name of which cow produced your milk  or the farm that your tomatoes were grown, The Kiva will tell you. Everyday is casual  Friday for their employees and despite only  four aisles, the store stocks plenty of meat,  produce and wine.  The size of the store  does factor into the changes being made,  but according to owner Melissa Brown, most  of the work will be done around the  confines of the shopping area.

“We’re so limited in this tight little space so we’re not doing anything inside.  It’s mostly about trying to rework the existing space and replace some aging equipment that’s less efficient,” said Brown.

A new entrance

The major changes to the store will be done on the exterior and will consist of three phases. Phase one will be adding a large window on the south side of the building facing 11th street.  That side will also be the location of a new deli area with a walk-up window as well as  a covered seating area with tables and chairs for customers.

“The Kiva right now has only a front door and a couple of windows next to it and that’s really all that you can see of it so we definitely wanted to open it up and create more of a connection between the outside and inside so there’s a bit more of a celebration of what’s happening inside that’s expressed on the outside,” said Nir Pearlson, architect for the project.

The part of the design that will occur inside is phase two.  The store will be getting new walk-in coolers, equipment changes in the kitchen and new bathrooms. It was important to Melissa that they not make drastic changes that would somehow alter the existing shopping experience.

“We wanted to maintain the same atmosphere.  We wanted to make quality improvements on things like windows and doors, but we’re not looking to rebrand or anything.  We just want to do what we do a little better.”

Pearlson also faced challenges in balancing changes that were to be made while also maintaining the existing feel of the store.

Whatever we touch we have to make sure it’s better than when we started.  Overall it will actually improve the integrity of the building. It’s a box and how do we shuffle things within the box?  With whatever you move there’s going to be certain dimensions and then there’s the aisles that need to be kept a certain way so we couldn’t radically alter the organization of the store.  Within the puzzle I think we did as best we could.”

Brown is optimistic that the first two phases  will be done in early August.  The final s  section of the project will be to the exterior  of the building out front.

“There’s a design for the sign out front.    Right now we’re focusing on the south side  wall and seating area.  There is a design for  the front entry and the awning.  Whether  we’ll get to it or not and when we’ll get to it  I’m not sure.  But there’s definitely  consideration for changing that as well,”  said Pearlson.

But the priority is to finish the first two phases.  Work has already begun on the large window and deli area and despite the construction, the store has remained open. Melissa is hopeful the changes will not interfere with the day-to-day operations of the store.

“We’re probably going to have two days where we’ll have to close but we’re trying to close as little as possible for financial reasons,” said Brown.

Melissa is targeting August eighth and ninth as the days for the large reset (phase one and two) to be finished assuming everything continues as planned.   Throughout the entire process of remodeling, Melissa has heard positive feedback from customers and she hopes the changes lead to a better shopping experience.

“It’s been a long process so we’re eager now that we’re actually in it to get it done.  We’re excited to have improvements like more natural light in the store.  Everyone, customers and employees should be able to function better in the space once it’s completed.”

But for now The Kiva operates as if nothing is changing.  After 40 years in business, the place deserves a few upgrades.

Passionate about movies, sports and writing, Ryan hails from Bend but lives in Springfield now. He earned his college degree in journalism from the University of Oregon and hopes to one day write a novel. He also enjoys sunsets and long walks on the beach.

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