Tonight I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek of the coming soon (around two weeks!) Healthy Living Market at the Wilton Mall in Saratoga Springs. I have been excited about this amazing market coming to our area since I first heard about it, and I know you guys are too, so let's dive right in and build that excitement to a fever pitch.
There will be two entrances for the market, one from the parking lot area and one from inside the mall, across from Old Navy, and we started our tour from the mall entrance. At the mall entrance there will be a seating and lounge area, under their great big skylight, with full tables and chairs and tons of greenery. As you enter the market from that entrance there is the organic juice and smoothie bar as well as a coffee bar, and all of the espresso beans will be provided from Saratoga's own Uncommon Grounds (double espresso on day one for Mamatoga please).
The Learning Center is right there at that entrance too, and big windows look right into Center, which will be equipped with BlueStar ranges provided by Mamatoga favorite Adirondack Appliance. Classes at the Learning Center will be for all ages, starting with kids as young as preschoolers.
At the start of the tour, Healthy Living Market founder Katy Lesser talked about how she got started working with farmers and helping to bring their products to the consumer in the best possible way. "Early on, I started working with farmers in Vermont and made it my business to help them learn how to bring product to market, because they knew how to grow things but they didn't necessarily understand how to sell their product. I really haven't had a formula, it's really more that every farmer has been different, and every situation has been different and over the years it turned into a really great thing. It's all about building relationships with the farmers."
"It's our duty to bring you your farmers and your small producers from your area, and not to replicate our Vermont store 100%, mostly it is about forging the new relationships here," said Katy's daughter, Nina Lesser Goldsmith. For the dairy section, two of their confirmed producers are Battenkill Valley Creamery and Meadowbrook, and all eggs will be from New York farmers, with one kind of eggs from Vermont. And they won't just have chicken eggs! They're going to also have quail and duck eggs as well in their meat department.
In Burlington they actually started a Farmers' Market on their property where they invited all farmers whose product they sold to their property so they could sell their product directly to customers. They took no profit from the market, and gifted the Farmers' Market to the city of South Burlington and it is in it's fifth year.
Their relationship with the Farmers' Market will be a very supportive one. "We totally support Farmers' Markets, we want our customers to meet the farmers directly, and to support them directly and to establish their own relationships, and to know that the rest of the week they can come here and get the same product" explained Katy Lesser. They will also have a CSA pickup at the store for Denison Market as well.
As far as price comparisons to the Farmers' Market, they don't see their business as competition for the Farmers' Market and support their business 100%. Healthy Living Market provides an outlet for these farmers to vend seven days a week.
The tour moved on then to the Meat Department, which is going to be complete nose to tail butchery. They will buy a tremendous amount of local meat and vow to their farmers to buy whole animals, they bring the meat in and butcher it themselves. It's a full service butcher shop and they will prepare the meat exactly the way you want it. It's a no waste butcher shop as well, they are fully taking the animal sacrifice to heart and are able to use the entire animal. When they meet with the farms they go over everything from feed to shelter to how they bring them to the slaughterhouse. All of the staff members go to the farm to see the process at the farms as well. They will have local chicken, beef, lamb and pork. Two of the farms that they are going to use are Buckley Farms for beef and chicken as well as West Wind Acres. There will be a full service seafood department where they can do whole fish, can cut certain pieces, they will have full ice table as well.
From there we moved on to the Demo Center, such a cool part of the store, which also has a BlueStar range from Adirondack Appliance at the ready. Christina Davis from From Scratch Club will be in charge of all product sampling and demos in the store, live cooking demos and bringing in local vendors. "We try to extend the Farmers' Market here, sort of a meet your vendor, meet your farmer thing" said Christina, and all of the demos and events will be on a schedule online so you can be sure to check them out.
When you walk in from the parking lot entrance you walk right into the produce section, which will have an incredible selection from local farms. They are working with Denison, Kilpatrick Family Farm and will be working with others for the summer as well. They try to work with Certified Organic product and Certified Naturally Grown, and will do a color system with tags: green will be organic, red is conventional and orange is Certified Naturally or Ecologically Grown. This is a great way to help educate the customer and Healthy Living strives to be completely transparent as well. Each farm receives their own tags and each product that is local has a locally produced sticker on it to identify it. Healthy Living Market also adheres to National Organic Standards, the products that are organic come in on separate pallets, they are stored in separate parts of the walk in cooler and are prepped in different sections of their kitchen and are merchandised separately. If you choose to buy all organic it won't ever come in contact with conventional produced.
Katy Lesser explained their standards further, "It all comes down to having good relationships with your vendors, establishing good relationships that are trusting, going to your vendors, and really seeing how they work. And if something arrives that isn't up to standards then we aren't going to carry it anymore." Their buyers study and research every product that comes into the store and they aim to offer a variety in order to have an option for everybody.
The bulk section was especially cool, and is way bigger than any bulk section I've seen before. They will offer local honey and maple syrup as well as olive oil in a liquid bulk section. They will have grains, pastas, granolas, dried fruits, trail mix and more as well as hard to find spices where you can get as much or as little as you need.
I asked Kate and Nina what they would say to a consumer who thought Healthy Living Market might be more expensive than the other grocery stores in our area. "We really believe that anyone can shop here, we work incredibly hard on our prices, we absolutely offer the lowest price that we can," said Nina. "I think our prices are really competitive, especially on all of the national brands that you'll see sold at all of the supermarkets. We have so many different people that shop at our Burlington store, we have people on budgets, people on food stamps, everybody."
"We really like to educate people," explained Katy, "because we have a bulk department and we have a strong way to education people you can really be very economical shopping in a bulk department. We are excited to introduce the concept in our area, it's hugely successful where we are in Burlington. It's always fresh, has incredible variety without the packaging, so you don't need to pay extra for the packaging."
The store manager told the group how they had a local newspaper do a price comparison between the Healthy Living Market in Burlington and two other supermarkets and shopped the same items at all three stores for a few months, and she said that each store came within pennies of the others, so neither was more expensive than the other. They also have amazing sales every month, and they make sure the sale items are items people need, one of those staples people need all the time, as well as seasonal items.
We popped into the new wine store, Divine Wines, which will have access from the market and from the parking lot as well, and was already looking great with exposed wooden beams and plans for a chandelier. There will be a tasting table and a great place to have events and tastings.
I loved all of the quotes up on the walls, adding a thoughtful visual touch to what is a wholly thoughtful space from floor to ceiling. We walked past the Health and Wellness section where Mamatoga favorite Olive Naturally will be sold, along with a bunch of other great local products.
Their cafe will be completely from scratch, including a bake shop with everything from fine pastries to breakfast pastries, artisan breads all made in house. The bagels are brought in from Uncommon Grounds too, with 70 bagels fresh every morning. The cafe will have a hot food and salad bar, and everything is made on site including the salad dressings. They will also have prepared foods and meals to go as well. They will specialize in vegan and gluten free options as well with those options clearly labeled.
And CHEESE! Imported, domestic, artisan, and amazing local cheeses cut to order and pre-cut and a full antipasti bar, olives and marinated mozzarella and more. Sounds incredible, right?
You may have already seen Healthy Living Market as a sponsor at many events around town- Winterfest, the Festival of Trees and more, and they are eager to continue that kind of community outreach. They have made so many connections in our community already, from the Franklin Community Center to Shelters of Saratoga, and the Saratoga Springs store manager Lyndsay Meilleur told us they have plans to develop farm to school programs as well.
Like I said, I really cannot wait for this new market, and I couldn't think of a better fit for Saratoga. Nina and Katy (and her son Eli, not there tonight) are such warm, welcoming people and I just know you guys are going to love them, and their market, as much as I do. I will let you guys know as soon as I find out what the opening date is, and we can all meet over coffee at the cafe! The photo below was one of my favorites of the quotes on the wall, and I think it perfectly illustrates the feelings here about Healthy Living Market, they are off to great places, and we get to join them. SO happy they chose our lovely city. Let the Healthy Living Market countdown begin Saratoga!