Earth Fare invites the Williamsburg VA community to join them for a Grand Opening celebration on Wednesday, June 27 as it opens its newest location in Midtown Row at Monticello Avenue. This will be the third Virginia location for the chain, which also operates stores in Fairfax and Roanoke.
The Grand Opening celebration kicks off just before 7 a.m. on Wednesday, June 27 with a ribbon cutting ceremony featuring a check presentation to R.F. Wilkerson YMCA to help initiate their new Give a Seed, Plant to Feed garden program. The program will facilitate a hands-on educational approach to healthy eating, food systems and sustainability, and social responsibility.
The ceremony will be followed by an entire day filled with fun for the whole family, including a mystery gift card giveaway valued at up to $1,000 to the first 500 shoppers in line, exciting contests and giveaways, free samples, product demonstrations, live music, and more. Sign-up or follow along on Facebook to learn more about opening week festivities and specials.
Earth Fare, a budget conscious, natural and organic food grocery store whose every item is free of artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, and preservatives, will open in Williamsburg’s Midtown Row on June 27, 2018. The company, whose roots go back to 1975, when it was a small natural food store in Ashville, North Carolina, will soon have 46 stores across the Southeast, mid-Atlantic and Midwest. The Williamsburg store is the third in Virginia and the first in southeast Virginia.
Williamsburg’s 24,380 square foot Earth Fare store will be open daily from 7 am – 11 pm, and offer numerous organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, and bulk food options. It will also have a slew of popular food stations, ranging from artisanal cheeses and hand-tossed pizzas to prepared hot foods and organic juices, all made with carefully sourced, clean ingredients.
“All of our meats and dairy are free of added hormones and antibiotics. Our cookies, cakes, pies, and breads are free from bleached and bromated flour. And, Earth Fare was one of the first in the industry to completely eliminate high fructose corn syrup and added trans-fats,” explains Earth Fare spokesperson, Laurie Aker, about the company’s Food Philosophy. “You can literally walk into an Earth Fare, shop blind-folded, and leave with a cart full of healthy food. That is our commitment to clean.”
True to its promise that “We Read the Labels So You Don’t Have To,” Earth Fare has a long “Boot List” of ingredients it bans from its shelves, including cyclamates, sorbic acid and artificial sweeteners. It also prohibits foods that have been irradiated or stored in lead soldered cans. If a shopper finds a questionable product on Earth Fare’s shelves, the store will investigate, and if the product is “booted,” that customer will receive a $50 gift card. Aker says this has happened only once, with a dog food.
Earth Fare offers more certified organic produce than anyone in the industry, Aker says, and it is dedicated to handling, transporting, packaging, and displaying produce to ensure its integrity as certified organic.
“Folks don’t think about this, but what about the contaminants and the chlorine in the water? Once that hits the produce, it takes away the integrity. So we offer a reverse osmosis filtration system on our wet walls and store organic produce on top of conventional to protect it from water drip-off. We also use separate knives and utensils for our in-house organic items such as guacamole.”
Budget Friendly, Healthy Food. Although natural and organic foods are pricey at many stores, Earth Fare’s philosophy is to make healthy eating easy and accessible for everyone, regardless of budget.
“We have a program called Clean Food Security, where the idea is to feed a family of four, on average, for about $2.50 per person, or $70 per week,” says Aker. To that end, the store offers a wide selection of prepared foods at its salad, soup and hot foods bar, its pizza and sandwich counter, and its ready-to-go section. Daily Deals include $5 rotisserie chickens and $6 take-and-bake pizzas. “We are asking folks to ditch the drive-thru and come into Earth Fare to get a clean and wholesome meal at a great price,” Aker notes.
Customers also can save on Earth Fare’s 175+ all-natural and organic bulk options, including a liquid bulk station with olive oil, local honey, and agave nectar on tap. Affordable, clean food is also at the heart of the company’s Live Longer with Earth Fare program through which it launched its private brand products last year. Those products, which range from canned goods and pasta to organic foods and fresh, hand-picked items such as brie cheese, are all sourced from non-GMO ingredients. (The stores carry more than 4,000 non-GMO products in addition to their private brand offerings.)
1-2-3 Fish. Earth Fare is big on seafood, as reflected by its 1-2-3 fish program offering pre-portioned pieces of 6-8 varieties of frozen fish.
“We have sea bass, salmon, lots of different types of fish, all for $3 to $10 dollars each,” says Aker. “The idea is that it can defrost on your way home, then you pop it in the oven for 10-15 minutes and have a nice, healthy meal for a great price.”
Earth Fare’s fish comes from Inland Seafood, the largest seafood provider in the Southeast. Earth Fare has an exclusive partnership with Inland to ensure all of its seafood is 100% traceable, sustainably sourced, and additive free. Earth Fare also has a unique “day boat” program where it guarantees to buy whatever catch is on the boat for that day, no matter how small or large.
“This means your seafood is extremely fresh; it isn’t sitting out on the boat for days on end,” Aker says. “We can trace from boat to fork, and include the point of origin on all the tags in the meat and seafood cases.”
In addition to its fresh fish offerings, Aker recommends the smoked seafood case, noting the “Everything” smoked salmon, featuring the seasonings often used on an “Everything” bagel, is her personal favorite. Grab-and-go seafood appetizers such as crab cakes and coconut shrimp with mango salsa also are popular.
For meat lovers, Earth Fare’s beef is grass fed and rated USDA choice or higher. Chickens are fed an all- vegetarian diet, and are free of added hormones and antibiotics. Aker points out that all Earth Fare meats and seafood are humanely raised.
Old World Bakery. Earth Fare’s on-site bakeries maintain an Old World baking philosophy.
“That means we use organic flour, sea salt, and natural enzyme yeast. We actually knead and stretch the dough by hand,” says Aker. “Our sourdough bread is from a 15-year-old starter from our Ashville store. It lets us have a little piece of the home store in each new store.”
Hand-tossed, New York Style Pizza… in a Health Food Store?
“We want to be sure we have offerings for all our customers and their tastes,” Aker says about the store’s decision to offer in-house baked pizzas. “If you’re going to get a pizza, get a clean pizza. Our pizza dough is vegan and organic. The tomatoes for the sauce are organic and vine ripened from Modesto, California; they go from field to can within six hours. Our cheese has no added hormones or antibiotics, and our meats have no nitrates. It’s a phenomenal flavor profile.”
Earth Fare also offers vegan cheeses and wheat-free pizzas, sandwiches, and wraps.
Juice Bar Happy Hours. Williamsburg’s Earth Fare will have an Heirloom Organic Juice Bar offering organic drinks such as wheatgrass shots (you can press and make your own) and a popular Kale Lemonade (kale, lemon, ginger, and apple juice). There will be a Juice Bar Happy Hour every day from 2-5 pm, offering $1 off all fresh smoothies and juices.
Specialty Foods and Tasting Stations. The store will carry specialty signature items such as Parmigiano Reggiano sourced exclusively from a cheese maker in Modena, Italy, another of Aker’s favorites.
“We dub it ‘The King of all Cheese’,” Aker notes. “It has a bright, floral, fruity flavor and you get a bit of a crunch that’s from protein crystals from the aging process. Even if you’re lactose intolerant, you can enjoy this cheese because it’s aged at least 24 months.”
The store will have tasting stations to try specialty items, typically on the weekends.
Wellness Products. Earth Fare offers more than 9,000 wellness products, including gluten-free makeup. It also carries the popular vegan products of ZuZu Luxe.
Staff on the Floor to Help. Aker notes that customers won’t have to grab a cashier to get a question answered since employees are assigned to the floor to help customers.
“We have an extremely knowledgeable staff that is passionate about natural and organic foods and is available on the floor to answer questions and help customers,” Akers notes. “For example, in our specialty department we will have open cheese displays. If you need a smaller or larger cut of cheese, or help with cheese and wine pairings, there is always someone available to help.”
Employees, identifiable by their jeans, black shirts and name tags, also will customers who wish to sample an item before buying it.
“If you’re ever in the store and want to try something, just let [staff] know and they will open it on the spot for you,” says Aker about the store’s aggressive sampling program. “We want to be sure that you know what you’re buying and that you’re happy with it.”
Joining the Healthy Rewards Program is Key. The only way to access all of Earth Fare’s deals is to become a member of its free-to-join Healthy Rewards program. Members get digital coupons and points for buying certain products and for using reusable bags. (The company has banned plastic bags.) After the first weeks of a store opening, most of Earth Fare’s advertising is through emails to Healthy Rewards members.
Building Community Connections. Every Earth Fare store has a diverse local community advisory board comprised of 20-25 local volunteers who meet quarterly to help Earth Fare understand what healthy food options are most needed – or wanted — in their area.
“Before we open the doors to a new store, we meet with the board to hear their thoughts on what areas or features they think the community will gravitate toward the most,” explains Aker, who serves as director for the community board program. “For example, we have a store in Ocala, Florida that has a very large Jewish community, but we wouldn’t have known that if we hadn’t taken the time to speak to the board. Once we knew, we were able to bring in special kosher products and offerings that cater to that community. The community appreciated that we took the time to listen.”
The company also nurtures community relationships by choosing a local non-profit, generally an organization that works with youth and nutrition, as its “give back” partner to receive donations. (Williamsburg’s “give back” partner will be announced after the store opens.) It sources many products from local (within about a 150-mile radius) farmers, vendors and artisans.
Watch for Williamsburg’s Opening Week. Earth Fare plans an activities-rich opening week, with gift cards and reusable bag give-aways, food demos, and live music.
“‘We’ll be doing live cheese wheel crackings during Williamsburg’s opening week,” says Aker. “The cheese wheels are huge, some as much as 95 pounds. We’ll also have a live fish cutting where we fillet the fish on the floor and educate customers on pairing options and tasting notes. We’ve done that with opah fish from Hawaii that can weigh up to 110 pounds and take four guys to pick up. If you’ve never had an opah, it’s a cross between a tuna and a swordfish with a rich, creamy taste and a firm, fatty texture that goes really well on the grill.”
Creating a Gathering Place. Earth Fare’s Williamsburg store will have a 54-seat indoor/outdoor café with free Wi-Fi to encourage folks to stay awhile in their local store.
“The best memories we have are of sitting around a table and enjoying good food,” Aker notes. “So, it’s OK for you to come in and get some work done and enjoy our hot food bar or pizza. We’re catering to everyone, from people on their lunch break to a family at dinner.”
Earth Fare will be opening June 27 2018 at Midtown Row on Monticello Avenue, at the location of the former Monticello Shopping Center.
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