October 25, 2014
The co-owner of the new Lucky’s Market in Clintonville feels ... well, lucky.
Bo Sharon opened the first Lucky’s natural-food market in Boulder, Colo., with his wife, Trish, in 2003.
“We wanted to start a grocery store that we wanted to shop at,” said Sharon, a chef and fresh-food advocate. “We believed that we can do it better.”
When expansion entered the picture, Sharon joined forces with former executives from Wild Oats and Sunflower Farmers Markets to plan a second Lucky’s store in Longmont, Colo., as well as stores in Ohio, Missouri, Montana and Kentucky.
On Tuesday, Lucky’s Market opened its first store outside Colorado at 2770 N. High St. in Clintonville.
“There’s a bond here, there’s a community,” Sharon said. “We’re very family-oriented, and it felt very close here.”
Natural and organic sales are surging nationwide as consumers become more health-conscious and the economy recovers. Retail-store sales of natural and organic products grew 10 percent, to $80.6 billion in 2012 from 2011, according to trade publication Natural Foods Merchandiser.
Motley Fool research shows that by contrast, traditional grocers are expected to see sales rise no more than 5 percent in the next few years.
Competition within the natural-foods sector also is growing. Nearly 1 in 3 natural-foods retailers saw a competitor open in their region in 2012, according to a survey by the trade publication. That’s up from 24 percent in 2011.
“Columbus has been inundated with gourmet markets” over the past two decades, said Jill Moorhead, former marketing director for the Hills Market, the specialty grocer that opened in North Columbus in 1993 and added a Downtown store earlier this year.
Wild Oats Market (now Whole Foods) opened on Lane Avenue in 1998. Trader Joe’s opened its first Ohio store on Sawmill Road in Dublin in 2001. Fresh Markets was next, in 2003, and Whole Foods Market in 2004. Earth Fare became the latest national chain to enter the market, with a store in the Polaris area last year. And that only looks at the chains with a national or regional presence.
In the meantime, conventional grocery stores and other retailers have picked up the healthy-food mantle. For example, Kroger launched its Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic lines of reasonably priced natural and organic foods in September 2012.
Sharon and his Lucky’s chain plan on dispelling the image that natural and organic food is unaffordable.
“Nobody’s selling affordable natural foods,” Sharon said. “While we love doing that, we felt we could be successful, as well.”
His 20,000-square-foot store offers mountains of fresh produce. This week’s sale items include Driscoll’s raspberries for 77 cents a 6-ounce package and Michigan-based Northbay Orchards apples for 88 cents a pound.
Granted, these are grand-opening sale prices. But keeping prices on fresh fruits and vegetables reasonable is part of Sharon’s strategy to get people to eat more fresh food.
“Our produce department looks like a farmers market. That reflects our intention,” he said. “We sell produce at side-of-the-road prices.”
His store takes special pains to tag its food as gluten-free, vegan and Ohio-produced, for people with allergies or dietary preferences.
The store sells many hormone- and antibiotic-free dairy, meat and deli products. On a quest to restore butchering to a craft, head butcher Paul Gingerich and his crew make their own sausage, bacon (no nitrates here) and some deli meats.
“Our grass-fed offering is second-to-none,” said Gingerich, whose Amish father also was a butcher.
Lucky’s makes many of its own baked goods and offers prepared salads and foods, as well as pizza, sandwiches and sushi. It has hot food and salad bars.
It also offers more than 300 vitamins and supplements, and many natural-health products, Sharon said.
“I love this store,” said Phyllis Durgham of Columbus, a natural-food shopper who paid a visit on opening day. “The emphasis is on quality, healthy food.”
On Wednesday, Sharon and his 130 workers officially opened their store by slicing a slab of bacon rather than cutting a ribbon. The store buzzed with customers, especially during evening hours.
“My wife, Trish, and I always found ourselves to be fortunate,” hence the Lucky’s name, Sharon said. “This is crazy! Look around!”
Lucky’s Market is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.