On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to take a tour of the soon-to-be opened Healthy Living Natural Foods Market coming to Saratoga inside of Wilton Mall. If the name sounds familiar to you, you may have been to the original Healthy Living Market in South Burlington, VT just a quick few hours drive away. We were first brought through the mall entrance, across from Old Navy and though at the moment it may not look like anything but a white wall and a door, there are some great things going on behind it! Mind you, the market is not opening until March 18th so the tour left a lot to the imagination. They obviously didn’t have fresh ingredients sitting there for wait two weeks so I can’t wait to see what the store looks like after the shelves are filled.
To start to tour, they introduced us to the Learning Center that will host demonstrations for up to 25 people and hands-on classes that will accommodate up to 8. All schedules will be posted on their website as the store launches. The first station is a juice and smoothie bar & cafe. Uncommon Grounds and Local will be providing coffee and other cafe goodies paired with beautiful fruit smoothies that I can only assume will utilize local fruits and I think that’s a great way to start grocery shopping.
I was impressed when they described how they found these local businesses to include in the new store. “Relationships with small farms is what we built our business on” and that included visits to each farm that they will be selling from to give their customers an accurate depiction of where the food they’re eating actually came from. Since they will be including so many local ingredients, the question about their relationships with farmer’s markets came up. They said that they encourage people to meet farmers and go to farmers markets but with the Healthy Living Market, customers have the ability to get those products the other days of the week.
Next, we stopped by where the meat department is going to be. They mentioned that this is the part of the store that they are most proud of, it being a whole animal butchery, meaning no part of the animal is wasted. Focus is put directly on the farmer and this department, too, will be including various local meats. They meet with each farmer for 2-3 hours and furthermore, they take every employee to the farm so they can experience every step in the slaughter process firsthand and can see the humane standards that each of these farms follow. They will be getting their beef, lamb and pork (so far) from West Wind Acres in Charlton and Buckle Farm in MA.
Our next stop was the demo station, stocked with Adirondack Appliance equipment. Run by Christina Davis who you may be familiar with as the founder of From Scratch Club. The demo station will not only have sampling and demos of how to prepare and utilize these beautiful local ingredients but also opportunities to meet the farmers who take their time to create this food. All events will be posted to their website and I will post as many as I can on my blog as well for you all.
Next was my favorite food, fish. This will be a full service seafood station that is new and not found in their Vermont location. They follow Monterey Bay Seafood Watch standards as well as choose ocean friendly sustainable seafood. I’m really impressed with the steps they’re taking to make sure that their customers get the highest quality products possible. If you’re not familiar with Monterey Bay Seafood Watch standards, it’s an interesting topic to read up on and find out if the supermarket you’re currently using is following these standards and why you should buy your fish elsewhere if they’re not.
The biggest area in the store was the produce. The produce is broken up into three easy to follow colors. Orange meaning certified naturally grown produce, meaning that though these farmers usually follow the USDA Organic program and they are required to be inspected annually but allows for the product to be sold for less than one labelled “organic.” If you’re looking for organic, or those that don’t use synthetic pesticides or chemicals, that produce will be labelled in green. Conventionally farmed fruit will be in red so they accommodate any price range you may be looking for in your produce. I was really impressed with their high standards in each department of the store. They adhere to national organic standards meaning that organic and non-organic produce is stored and merchandised completely separately going as far as using completely different pricing guns, gloves, etc. The bulk department in the same area, will feature local flour mills, dedicating 6 bins to just local grains and a liquid table with oils, honey, etc to try to draw even more attention to local products.
Once the weather is nicer, you will have the opportunity to sit outside and enjoy food from the cafe where everything is made from scratch, in-house, or one of their meals to go. They will also be opening a wine store so you can attend a tasting, buy a bottle of wine and pair it with the ingredients you plan to use for dinner all in one place. I was overall really impressed with the passion they have for local. Since they are from Vermont originally, they are open to hearing about local brands you want to see in the store but don’t. The soft opening is on March 18th but the grand opening will be scheduled for sometime after the snow officially is over so they can utilize the beautiful Spring/Summer weather with their outside seating. I’m really excited for this store to open and I can’t wait to be able to shop in it and find all of my favorite local ingredients during the days of the week where I can’t go to a farmer’s market. What local food do you want to see MOST in this store?