Living Foods storefront. Photo by Maggie Culver.
College towns are often filled with fast food restaurants that appeal to the average college student’s busy lifestyle and tight budget. Melody Sharp, owner of Living Foods Organic Cafe and Market in Oxford, saw this trend as an opportunity to introduce something different.
From starting a Mary Kay business, to patenting her own children’s teething toy, Sharp, a University of Southern Mississippi graduate, has always been an entrepreneur. After moving to Oxford a decade ago, she noticed there were no places with clean food and gluten-free options.
The mother of children with allergies found this concerning. She and her husband decided to open Living Foods less than five minutes away from the Ole Miss campus on College Hill Road just across from Lamar Park.
“I thought we could change that and offer truly healthy items to Oxford that weren’t just your run-of-the-mill salad offered on a menu of burgers and fried food,” she said.
Sharp believes the environment of Living Foods distinguishes the business from others, and she gives a higher power credit. “I would attribute it to the fact that this is God’s business, so He is welcome here,” she said.
Living Foods offers a variety of menu items. One of their most famous is the smoothie Acai bowl, a nationwide food trend. Young people love to take pictures of their colorful bowls and post them to social media.
The prime location of Living Foods attracts many college students. One student, Sydney Beckham, said she “lives off of it.” She recently moved into the Arbors, an apartment next door to Living Foods, and said she comes in three to four times a week. “It’s so convenient,” she said. “I can literally walk right over when I get done with my workout.”
Sharp said her biggest asset is people. “When you take care of your people, they enjoy their work,” she said, “and it spills over into their customer service. When you take care of your customers, they come back and bring people with them. When you focus on people, the money takes care of itself. When you focus on money, the people suffer.”
Sharp said she doesn’t see problems; she sees opportunities. “I just have always looked at how things can be improving, or how we can do things better,” she said, “so we deal with things and improve constantly.”
Since opening Living Foods, more healthful restaurants have opened in Oxford, including Freshii, a campus restaurant that offers healthful meals students can pay for with their pre-purchased meal plan.
Sharp’s business philosophy is simple, yet effective. “Treat people right, and the rest will follow, and do everything with excellence.”