New Lexington grocery focuses on organic foods

September 03, 2003|EMILY TOADVINE

Grab the grocery list and a yoga mat. Don't forget the canvas shopping bags, although you will be asked "Paper or plastic?" Yoga demonstrations and other examples of healthy lifestyles are all part of sowing some Wild Oats.

The grocery chain that touts itself as the place to shop for organically-grown produce and chemical-free beef opened its 101st store Aug. 6 in Lexington Green next to Joseph-Beth Booksellers. Seventy percent of the produce is organic, says store manager Gary Hayes.

"That makes us a little different," he says, noting that he tries to work with local venders as much as possible. One man supplies the store with basil and another product is honey from Burlington.

Much of the produce comes from a supplier in Bloomington, Ind.

"They have incredibly great produce and their trucks hit the window," Hayes says, referring to the window of time between 3 and 4 p.m. each day.


In the meat department, shoppers may be treated to samples of buffalo sausage. One thing they won't receive is meat with chemicals.

"Everybody knows a cow gets sick from time to time. If they do and they have to take antibiotics, then we don't receive that meat," he says of the product that comes from a Colorado supplier four times a week.

The seafood delivery also ensures freshness.

"We have a saying, 'From boat to plate in 48,'" says Hayes. "Our seafood comes in six times a week."

Shoppers can expect to pay more for these carefully-selected and specially-grown products.

Another part of the store that Hayes says is unique is the bulk food aisle with seasonings, grains and beans.

"You can get exactly as little or as much as you want," Hayes says. "A lot of single people shop this area."

Free-trade coffee is another item available. The coffee growers are promised a fair price if they grow organic coffee.

"We're a neighbor to the world and we take that very seriously," Hayes says.

As proof of the store's commitment to the communities it serves, it grows its own garden so that the produce can be given to charities such as homeless shelters. In Lexington, the garden space will located in the University of Kentucky Arboretum.

The store has much to offer those shopping for unique items. In the cheese department, there are selections from 20 countries. Audra Cryder, a chef who works at the store, offers much advice and even samples of the cheese selection.

"I always say, 'It's better to eat a little bit of something extraordinary than a lot of the ordinary,'" she says as she mans her station across from the deli and sushi bar. Like her co-workers she sported a black beret and white smock.

At lunch, the deli was packed with people ordering slices of pizza and many types of sandwiches. One shopper, Heather Haffey of Lexington, says she used to always visit the Cincinnati store. She described herself as hooked on the deli sandwiches, especially a roast beef with portabella mushrooms.

"My 6-year-old daughter said the pizza was the best she ever had," Haffey says.

Another shopper, Dina Justice of Lexington, was shopping with her preschool-age daughter, Brianna. Justice had not grabbed one of the carts built like race cars for children to sit in, because she had a short grocery list. She was specifically looking for non-sweet snacks that did not have preservatives.

"We're trying to eat better," Justice says.

Hayes says Wild Oats is the place to start. Most of the frozen foods are Seeds of Change and Amy's brands. Stillwell Stone Pizzas have all natural ingredients. Hayes says putting better foods in our bodies has to lead to better health.

"Everything in moderation, but you actually feel better when you eat better," Hayes says.

He says the employees are encouraged to drink lots of water.

"The largest organ is your skin so it's important that you nourish you skin," he says.

Hayes says the Wild Oats chain opens stores where they are wanted and that Lexington definitely wanted one.

"Our grand opening day was the second largest that Great Oats has had," he says.

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