Do you love to grocery shop? Not many people do. However, we all like a full pantry and refrigerator and resulting delicious meals and concoctions. One thing most people can agree on is that we seek fresh, good quality, healthy food whenever possible. In Butte and Shasta counties, we have ample choices of big box shopping, large chain grocery stores, and seasonal farmers’ markets. But we are also lucky enough to have excellent local grocers, who arguably provide the very best shopping experience, finest quality products, and healthiest food for our dollars. We have co-ops, organic markets, and independent grocers to choose from. Some are new and some have deep roots in our community. Here are the stories of a few of these bright gems, which we should truly treasure and support whenever possible.
CHICO NATURAL FOODS COOPERATIVE, CHICO
Chico Natural Foods Cooperative (CNFC) began in 1973, when a group of local families created a buying club to allow them to purchase healthy food in bulk, saving time and money. The buying club grew and eventually morphed, becoming a nonprofit store. In 2001, the operation was converted to a legal cooperative, giving the 3,000 members shares in the newly born, for-profit business. Members pay twenty dollars per year, which gives them their shares and equity. Although there is a members only, point-earning program that gives discounts and other benefits, everyone is welcome to shop at CNFC.
The building that has served as home to CNFC since 1987 is close to a century old. It was built as the “new downtown Safeway” in 1939. CNFC launched a capital campaign in February of 2020 for a massive top to bottom remodel of the space. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the plan had to be hugely scaled back, and focus was put on essential renovations that allow accessibility and a better shopping experience. All new flooring, one of the major projects, was recently completed with members pitching in on much of the work. “We had groups of eight to ten members working through the night to get it done,” said Co-op Brand Manager, Joey Haney.
Plans also include changing the layout of the departments inside the store. Currently, the kitchen is in the middle of the store, where it offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner via a hot-food bar and grab and go area. “We plan to move the kitchen to the edge of the store, updating and modernizing it,” said Haney. The kitchen and its accompanying bakery are a big draw to locals seeking healthy options. “I’ve shopped there for decades, and one of the things that really stands out to me is the nice deli offerings,” said Chuck Lundgren, a longtime vegan who appreciates the array of options for all diets. He also noted that great customer service is a priority at CNFC. “They have really upped their game and get people checked out quickly.”
CNFC was recently named one of the few brick and mortar recipients of The Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Grant Program (GusNIP), which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Th e program allows anyone receiving CalFresh to automatically receive a fifty percent discount on all California grown produce. “If someone who has CalFresh comes into the Co-op and buys twenty dollars’ worth of California cherries, stone fruit, and vegetables, they will only pay ten,” explained Haney. “I’m super excited that we are the only store in town to offer this.” He went on to say although he’s happy for the current competitive advantage, he is also working with a group to find ways to get more stores participating. “It’s a great way to get people to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables,” he said.
COUNTRY ORGANICS, REDDING
For the past eight years, Country Organics has been providing residents in Shasta County with fresh, locally grown, and strictly organic groceries in their perfect tiny storefront in Redding. A clever punny sign reading “Farmacy” hangs over the produce area, which has display bins brimming with vibrant, fresh, local fruit and veggies. Current owners Sam and Leah Furey, who bought the store in 2016, stock the store shelves with the highest quality products from the region, which they hand-select and source from more than forty different northstate farmers and vendors. The Fureys hail from the Midwest and, after a visit to northern California, became hooked on the regions’ bountiful fresh foods and fell in love with the natural beauty of the area.
Country Organics has served as a launching pad for several Shasta County food entrepreneurs. For example, Nathan’s Artisan Sourdough Bread has significant shelf space at Country Organics. Nathan’s is “made with love in small batches” that take three days’ time from start to finish. This coveted organic bread is sold at the store and local farmers’ markets. In addition, Salt and Savour Sauerkraut, a local favorite since 2013, hit the shelves at Country Organics first and now is sold throughout northern California and Oregon. And Roots’ Juice Bar’s first point-of-sales outlet beyond farmers’ markets was their space inside Country Organics.
The Fureys realized that Redding didn’t have many options for a diner seeking an all organic, super healthy, gluten-free menu. To fill this niche, they created The Cashew, their café, which features 100 percent homemade wraps, quinoa bowls, and a full juice and smoothie bar. “We have our own creative rendition on classic things. People come from all over the United States to try our made-from-scratch wraps,” said Sam, noting that Yelp and Facebook reviews constantly mention stopping at The Cashew while traveling on highway 5. The café also serves a variety of coffee drinks and some fan favorite desserts, like cashew-based cheesecake and cacao mousse.
Furthering the distribution of some locally harvested bounty, Country Organics runs a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program for Redding and surrounding areas. Annually, they have up to eighty subscribers who receive a box chock full of in-season farm-fresh fruit and vegetables. According to Sam, the CSA is slower in the summer, when people tend to have backyard gardens, and then busier in the winter. CSA members also have the option to add anything from the store to their box, including items from the café and juice bar. Country Organics is extremely flexible and allows people to have CSA deliveries weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. “We love sharing healthy food with Shasta County,” said Sam.
KENT’S MEATS AND GROCERIES, REDDING
Kent and Kathy Pfrimmer opened their specialty market, Kent’s Meats and Groceries, in 1978. Still in its original location more than forty years later, it’s also still an old-fashioned shopping experience: they pride themselves in providing great customer service and plenty of local favorite items. It’s the go-to place locally for California cheeses, including Cypress Grove’s Humboldt Fog in whole wheels. The store is well known for its meat department, where they sell not only the usual fare, with local representatives Prather Ranch beef and Mary’s chickens, but also some less standard choices like goat, deer, buffalo, and elk. They smoke their own meat, including bacon, and make snack sticks and jerky. Every Friday, the BBQs are stoked and customers can purchase an array of cooked meats, fresh off the grill. Ashley Post, who grew up in a family of regular Kent’s Market shoppers, now happily shops there as an adult. “They have great local produce and locally sourced foods and will stock nearly anything you ask,” she said.
Kathy operates her namesake store deli, which offers a wide array of homemade salads and all types of hot and cold deli sandwiches. The deli opened three years after the grocery side of the business. Kent chuckled as he remembered, “It started very small; on her first day she made twelve sandwiches. Nowadays they make several hundred daily.” He said the deli is a draw to area customers. “Everything is homemade, and it’s a very important part of our store.” The deli has a popular lunch service and convenient grab and go options. “Any food items that Kathy and her ladies cook up are simply great,” said local Robert Zitek.
Kent notes that their customers really have “the gratitude attitude,” which is also the motto of the business. Locals appreciate the Pfrimmer’s longstanding dedication to supporting area youth sports and school programs. “I certainly don’t want to brag, but we’ve always supported our community,” said Kent. Fresh food, a great deli, and terrific relationships with community and customers seem to be the recipe for success for Kent’s Meats and Groceries. Zitek affirmed this: “We are so lucky to have Kent’s Meats and Groceries and Kathy’s Deli in our area.”
NEW EARTH MARKET, CHICO AND YUBA CITY
Spurred by his difficulty in finding fresh, local, organic food to provide an optimal diet for his asthmatic daughter, Kevin Cotter opened New Earth Market in Yuba City, in 2011. The plan was to fill a gap in the grocery offerings of their community. Their promise is to sell “the healthiest food on the planet.” This means that nothing in the store has preservatives, additives, fillers or by-products. In addition, the markets’ wares avoid more than 100 chemicals, identified from a list of toxic chemicals found in mainstream grocery items. New Earth sources products from over 100 north state purveyors, supporting local farms and businesses. With the success of the Yuba City location, the Chico store opened five years later, in 2016.
Being sustainable is a priority, and each year, New Earth has made efforts to shrink their carbon footprint. In the past three years, they have converted to LED lighting, added solar panels to account for some of their energy consumption, and installed electric charging stations for vehicles at the Yuba City location. Charitable giving is accomplished through New Earth’s Nickels for Charity program. For each reusable bag brought by a customer, an option is given for a five-cent rebate or receipt of a wooden charity nickel. When selecting the wooden nickel(s), customers deposit their coins in one of four boxes with local charities as beneficiaries. Since 2015, this program has donated more than $25,000 to numerous local organizations focused on children, animal welfare, the environment, and social causes.
Some of the other features of the store include a full-service deli that also does catering, a coffee bar, gelato counter, and kombucha on-tap. Locals agree that New Earth has done a great job. “I love so many things about New Earth,” said Susan Roll, a regular customer. “They have nice staff who demonstrate care and kindness and have great, interesting, healthy products.” She added, “Plus I am always glad to give my money to a local company, especially one that gives back.”
The pattern is clear. Home grown, independent grocers have a sense of pride and place in our towns. They strive to give back to the communities they serve. By stocking their shelves with locally produced goods, these grocers are helping contribute to the local economy, and are helping keep our communities healthy with excellent, nutritious, and delicious food. Shop locally and keep these gems shining bright.
SEVEN GREAT REASONS TO SHOP AT LOCAL GROCERS
List compiled from publications by The American Independent Business Alliance, The Local Good, and The Good Trade. Support for local business: Spending money locally helps the community thrive. When you shop at a local grocer, your purchases not only support them but also the numerous local farmers supplying their goods. For every dollar you spend locally, the return to the local economy is three times greater than if you shop at a chain, and fifty times greater than if you buy from an online mega-retail store.
Variety of in-season food: The strong alliances with area farmers guarantee local grocers will have the widest selection of in-season and locally grown food.
Protect the environment: Independent, community-based grocers focus on local products and purveyors, while the big chains ship some products up to thousands of miles across oceans. The carbon footprint created by big chain stores with their plane, train, and truck transport is enormous. On the other hand, locally grown food has a relatively small carbon footprint. In addition, the smaller retail space leads to a reduced carbon footprint.
Reduce waste: Traditional grocers sell food in standard packaging consisting of cardboard, plastics, and more. Local stores often provide options to purchase items with less packaging and some with reusable containers or bags.
Health: Organic and pesticide-free foods are widely the norm at small grocers, who compete with the big stores by providing plenty of these options.
Personal Customer Service: Often, personal relationships are cultivated between customers and staff at local grocers. The smaller environment allows people to chat, make special requests, and be known. This experience often builds loyalty and just feels good too.
Giving Back to the Community: Local stores are twice as likely to make charitable donations and provide support for the community than their larger counterparts.
Bonnie and Ken Chapman are partners in many of life’s great endeavors including marriage, raising two children, global travel adventures and writing for Edible Shasta-Butte. Both are avid trail runners and you can find them enjoying Upper Bidwell Park or wherever the trails take them.