Saturday, April 20, 2024

We got a tour of Earth Fare. Here’s what it looks like inside

Earth Fare is celebrating its grand opening Wednesday, but the grocer opened its doors to WYDaily on Tuesday for a sneak peek.

Constructions crews were finishing the last of their work before the grand opening as Earth Fare team members were putting the final touches on the store’s interior.

The organic and natural food grocer is opening in the former Monticello Shopping Center as an anchor tenant for Midtown Row.

The 24,000-square-foot grocery store is the first Earth Fare in Williamsburg, and the first in Southeastern Virginia – and the company is confident they will offer something new to Williamsburg shoppers.

“You can come into Earth Fare blindfolded and leave with a car full of healthy food,” spokeswoman Laurie Aker said. “That’s our commitment to clean.”

The commitment begins, Aker said, with their food philosophy. The grocery store will only sell products that are free of high fructose corn syrup, trans-fats, and artificial fats, colors, preservatives or sweeteners. All of its products are GMO-free and are never administered antibiotics or growth hormones.

The store is also committed to regional vendors. Before opening stores in new communities, Earth Fare hosts a Love Local Vendor Fair to meet and vet regional vendors. If they pass, the vendors’ products will be carried in their local Earth Fare — with a tag next to their product that says “Love Local.”

Some local products that can be found on Earth Fare’s shelves include Mandela Coffee, Virginia Beer Co.’s brews and seafood from the Virginia coast.

Another tag shows items that have been approved by the store’s local Community Advisory Board, composed of between 20 and 25 members from throughout the area. Each Earth Fare store has its own advisory board, which pinpoints products and items local shoppers will struggle to find elsewhere, Aker said.

“What is your neighborhood in need of most?” Aker said.

Customers who sign up for the Healthy Rewards program will be eligible for deals, discounts and store credit earned from purchases at Earth Fare.

Members will also receive a sales flyer every Wednesday with sales and deals for the following week.

The Williamsburg Earth Fare store will be managed by David Berger, who spent nine years with Whole Foods before joining the grocery chain in March 2017. The store will also employ about 130 people.

What’s in store?

When one walks under the dark gray siding, through the main entrance and onto the polished concrete floors, they’ll find fresh, locally-sourced produce and a buy-in-bulk center along the store’s left wall.

The bulk section hosts vertical steel dispensers that hold items like granola, trail mix, grain, flour, seeds, nuts, candy and even liquids like blue agave nectar, virgin olive oil, honey and tea.

Customers can release as much as they like and buy at bulk prices.

Straight ahead is the grocery section, where shoppers will find most of their kitchen and pantry needs. Earth Fare has its own brand of products that are third-party certified organic and free of GMOs.

The store carries 1,000 gluten-free and 4,000 GMO-free items besides the Earth Fare brand.

The seafood, meat, and dairy departments are against the back wall. Aker said the store’s seafood is 100 percent traceable and sustainably sourced.

Beyond the checkout counters to the right of the main entrance is the wellness section, housing vitamins, probiotics and makeup that all meet Earth Fare’s standards.

“It’s not just what we put in our bodies, it’s what we put on our bodies,” Aker said.

Beer and wine is located next to the cheese section in the back right corner of the store. Earth Fare carries cheese from four animals, including water buffalo. A bakery, featuring a Danish station offering croissant and cookies, and the deli are in the far-right aisle, behind the Heirloom juice bar. The bar’s happy hour is 2 to 5 p.m. daily and sells things like juices, smoothies and wheat grass shots.

A deli case in the same aisle offers mac and cheese, tofu, egg rolls and garlic Brussel sprouts to go, and a hot bar will provide hot meals that rotate on a daily basis.

The prepared foods and deli department also carries prepared meals that will feed a family of four for $10, providing clean food security.

“It’s another step toward giving folks access to healthy food,” Aker said.

Want to go?

The ribbon-cutting for Earth Fare will be around 6:45 a.m. Wednesday.

Earth Fare is next to Nawab Indian Cuisine in the old Monticello Shopping Center at 208 Monticello Ave.

Earth Fare operates 46 stores across 10 states and was founded in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1975.

The Williamsburg Earth Fare store will be managed by David Berger, who spent nine years with Whole Foods before joining the grocery chain in March 2017. The store will also employ about 130 people.

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