(L.-r.) Kate, Addison, Jackson, Jessica, Brooke and Clay Herbert got to take home a $1,000 Earth Fare gift card at the Wesley Chapel/Lutz store’s Grand Opening event on Feb. 19. (Photo: John C. Cotey)

Waiting in a long line in the wee hours of the morning with her five children wasn’t on Jessica Herbert’s to-do list on Feb. 19.

Checking out the grand opening of the new Earth Fare grocery store, however, was.

Instead of lining up in the dark, which more than 100 eager shoppers did, she and her children rolled out of bed at their usual time — around 6 a.m. — and left their Meadow Pointe home at 6:45 a.m.

They missed the band, the cheerleaders and the ribbon cutting. They weren’t the first, 10th or 100th people through the doors.

However, for Jessica and her kids, their timing turned out to be impeccable. Of all of the gift cards handed out to the new store’s first 500 visitors by Earth Fare, Jessica got the most valuable one: $1,000.

Jessica’s mouth dropped wide open, then formed into a wide smile as she looked back incredulously at friends who were in what was, by then, a quickly moving line.

“Yes, really,” she said, holding out the card for them to see. “Wow!”

Her smile was contagious and was shared by her excited kids: Addison, 12, Kate, 10, Clay, 8, Jackson, 5 and 3-year-old Brooke.

“My kids were mad that I dragged them out so early,” Jessica said. “They thought we were only going to get a $5 gift card.”

Grabbing a $5 gift card actually was Jessica’s goal. She confesses to briefly thinking about the possibility of landing the big prize, but of course, she didn’t think it would happen.

“My goal was to get at least $5 to buy my kids some muffins for breakfast,” she said.

Feeding five kids an organic diet can be pricey, so the gift card will come in handy for Jessica.

“With five kids, that’s definitely a lot of food that we need, so we could definitely use this,” she says. “It’s nice to know that now, we can buy healthier ingredients for our family.”

Asked whether the kids would be getting a special treat for bringing a little luck to mom, Jessica chuckled and said, “I think we’re going to get something,” as Addison and Kate grabbed onto her to drag her into the store.

She’s Number One!

Velaina Clayart wasn’t quite as lucky — her gift card was for only $25 — but as the first shopper in line, she received lots of attention and a goody bag from the store, which she promptly shared with those in line behind her.

A Dade City resident, Clayart says that she arrived at around 1 a.m., set up her white plastic chair and quilt and killed time by gazing at the full moon and walking around looking at all of the adjacent new construction.

“It was a little lonely at first,” she said. “But, as people showed up, I would seek out conversation. I made some friends today.”

Why 1 a.m., which turned out to be a few hours before the next people in line? Clayart says that’s what her research told her.

“I watched every single grand opening that Earth Fare had posted on the internet, and one of them over on east coast said two women had gotten there at midnight and they were all by themselves up until about 3 a.m.,” Clayart said. “I couldn’t sleep because I was so excited. I got in my car at midnight and made my way here nice and slow.”

Clayart also said that she is fascinated by all of the growth in Wesley Chapel, and wanted to be part of a grand opening. She also says she lives an organic lifestyle, and is pleased to see a store offering such a large variety of healthy products within a short drive from her home.

And, she enthusiastically clapped and sang along with the cheerleaders from Cypress Creek High School, excitedly talked to passers by, cheered when Earth Fare CEO Frank Scorpiniti presented the New Tampa Family YMCA with an oversized check for $3,000 and shouted out the ribbon-cutting countdown with Pasco County District 2 Commissioner (and Wesley Chapel resident) Mike Moore.


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