Store hopes to reap health-conscious consumers

Natural Provisions to open on Harvest Lane

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

With poisoned pet food and tainted meat making headlines, it seems an especially good time to open a health food store. Mark Grenier is certainly bullish on the business.

Grenier, who operates the Natural Provisions health food store in St. Johnsbury, plans to open a second outlet in Williston. It will be located at 329 Harvest Lane, in the building that formerly housed Boise Cascade, an office supply company.

Grenier said he has seen sales steadily increase since he purchased the St. Johnsbury store three years ago.

“It’s getting bigger and bigger,” Grenier said. “And people are tending to eat healthier.”

So Grenier recently began looking to open another outlet in Chittenden County. He ruled out Burlington, and South Burlington, which each have stores – City Market and Healthy Living, respectively – that offer health foods.

Williston seemed far enough away from those stores yet central for many area residents. The location he found a short distance from Wal-Mart and other large retailers seemed ideal.

“Williston is an attractive area of course, with all those big-box stores,” he said.

The store will occupy 10,000 square feet on the ground floor of the sprawling Boise Cascade building. Though it will have a fraction of the space of a conventional grocery store, Natural Provisions will offer most of the types of products available at such stores, Grenier said.

He said he will squeeze many different types of items in the smaller space by limiting the number of brands of each product.

The store will have a selection of organic products such as vegetables, fruit, coffee and spices. Meat and fish will be offered. The inventory will include vitamins and nutritional supplements as well as wine and beer.

Grenier said he will carry well-known natural food brands such as Desert Essence, Nature’s Plus and Newman’s Own. He will also offer Vermont-made New Chapter vitamins.

Natural Provisions will have a small cafe that will have coffee, snacks and deli items. Grenier said he also hopes to offer a juice bar.

Organic and natural foods are increasingly available, not just in natural foods stores but also in farmers’ markets and conventional grocery stores.

In Williston, a pair of farmers’ markets are scheduled to open for their inaugural seasons in July. And both the Hannaford and Shaw’s grocery store chains have greatly expanded their organic offerings.

Hannaford announced this week that it had won recognition as a certified organic retailer. The grocery chain said the store now stocks more than 3,500 organic and natural products.

Grenier said he is currently working with a company to fit up the Harvest Lane store. He said Natural Provisions is scheduled to open in August.