Health food stores have always been mysterious places. Back in the late 1970’s, early 1980’s, health food stores occupied a small niche in society that was close to being underground. They came along on the heels of the hippy movement of the 60’s and often served as a place for communes to sell their homegrown wares. The health food stores smelled of herbs, incense and a few other things that generally defied description. There were strange and exotic foods from all over the globe, all of them claiming to be organic or free range. There were things like granola, soymilk, goat’s milk, tofu and wheat grass juice. You could find books on such subjects as natural healing, crystal therapy and composting.
Wild Oats is a franchise in many cities and when you go into the store, you can tell right away that the basic Mom and Pop operation had changed. This particular chain began eighteen years ago in Boulder, Colorado and has expanded over the years to include more than 110 stores in 24 states and British Columbia. It is clear to see how this company became the standard for the organic market industry.
At first glance, their store looks like any other large grocery store, and you can probably find many of the same items that you would in a standard grocery store – but with one twist. Everything is organic. Usually when you hear the word organic, you might think two things; bland and expensive. However, with all the options and improvements in the way of organic foods are produced, there are many items that are very tasty, and the prices have become comparable to those of a conventional grocery store.
The overall concept of the health food store has not changed. They still offer a wide range of organic foods and herbal remedies. They are filled with all kinds of products to heal the body, mind and spirit. You can find aromatherapy candles, essential oils, books, tapes, and DVD’s on meditation and yoga. You can take cooking classes and learn how to make your own herbal remedies. There are still aisles dedicated to environmentally safe products for household cleaning and recycling.
Some additions are a pleasant surprise, though. There can be four different “deli” counters. There is usually a butcher counter with free-range chicken and beef and a plethora of fresh seafood. Another counter may display an array of amazing baked goods (bagels, cakes and pastries), and in many stores there is yet another section that caters full meals for a quick healthy lunch or a dinner party. The modern health food store also had a section for wine and beer, an astounding array of cheeses, and an extensive frozen foods section.
It is good to see how far the basic health food store has come. Sure you can still find the small ones if you look for them, but like so many other things these days, big corporations have taken over and created franchises that offer more for less. Buying in bulk allows the stores to get better discounts and pass the savings on to the consumer.