My wife and I love LifeSource Natural Foods, currently Salem"s one and only natural food store.
Health-minded eaters that we are, vegetarian and organic-leaning, we enjoy the friendly atmosphere and good selection of food at LifeSource.
However, we also lust after a Whole Foods, Market of Choice, New Seasons, or other larger natural food store with more choices and lower prices. Usually when we're in Portland, Corvallis, or Eugene, we stop at one of the stores that Salem should have, given its population, but doesn't.
So I was more than a little excited when I glanced at the front page of the Statesman Journal a few days ago and saw "Natural foods store set to open in June."
Unfortunately, a few lines of reading knocked me back to reality. Salem wasn't getting a cool natural foods store, but a Natural Grocers store. Never having heard of Natural Grocers, I didn't know what the chain was like.
Clearly, though, it wasn't a Whole Foods, Market of Choice, or New Seasons.
A fast-growing organic foods retailer, which has sprouted 60 stores in 12 states, will soon compete for Salem’s grocery dollars.
Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage Inc. intends to open a Salem store by June, said Merredith Branscombe, a company spokeswoman. Branscombe couldn’t confirm the Salem store’s address, but city officials have approved a site plan for a 16,000-square-foot grocery store at 4250 Commercial St. SE.
...The retailer sells only organic products and bans anything with hormones, antibiotics, pesticide residue or artificial colors from its shelves. The full-service grocery also sells nutritional supplements, body care and pet products.
Anything owned by a "Vitamin Cottage" didn't sound like a cool, hip, cutting edge addition to Salem's (a.k.a. So-Lame) natural food scene. Checking out the Natural Grocers' web site, I came across a decidedly unexciting video tour of what they call a "real health food store."
This looks to me like a "Vitamin Cottage" that grew into a rather sterile natural food store. Meaning, without much charisma, energy, creativity, zest. My wife and I watched the video with a growing sense of...
LifeSource Natural Foods doesn't have a lot to worry about.
Understand: we wish Natural Grocers success. I just don't see much, if anything, that the Natural Grocers store will offer that we need or want. Probably a bigger selection of some brands, especially in the vitamin area.
There's no deli in a Natural Grocers store. That's a deal-killer for us, and a big reason why we like Whole Foods so much. We don't like to cook, but we like to eat healthy, tasty, reasonably-priced vegetarian food. Takeout from the LifeSource deli section is a big part of our weekly diet.
Natural Grocers won't compete with LifeSource on that front. Which likely will make us occasional browsers in the Salem store, but not regular customers.
Salem still has a long way to go before it catches up to its much cooler sister cities to the north and south, Portland, Corvallis, and Eugene. Natural Grocers is a baby step in that direction, nothing more. And as long as I'm complaining...
Today I learned from a sign on the front what store is going in next to the south Salem Trader Joe's that opened last year. Ugh! A Tuesday Morning. Unbelievable.
I've never been in one. My wife tells me it is a discount store, not even as nice as T.J. Maxx. I'd been envisioning a hip healthy restaurant to match Trader Joe's. Maybe a Cafe Yumm, which we love.
But no, Salem gets another blah store selling blah stuff. Which doesn't quite describe how Natural Grocers looks to me. Disturbingly close, though.