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Natural Foods Merchandiser

Expo West 2011 Retail Store Tour

Expo West Retail Store Tour features Mother's Market and Kitchen in Costa Mesa, The Bite Market and Licata Nutrition Center in Orange and Whole Foods Market in Huntington Beach

On Thursday, March 10, the Expo West 2011 Retail Store Tour will highlight four natural and specialty stores in Orange County, Calif., representing a broad range of retailing strategies. Here’s a sneak peek at what’s in store.

Mother’s Market & Kitchen, Costa Mesa
Mother’s Market is an Orange County institution, with six full-service natural foods stores and another on the way. Participants will tour the Costa Mesa flagship store, which recently settled into its current location.

“We’ve been in Costa Mesa for 32 years, but our new location is 10,000 square feet larger, allowing us more aisle space; expanded selections in all departments; a larger, more welcoming dining area for our restaurant; and a new salad bar and hot food bar,” says Mo Payette, chief operating officer and director of purchasing for Mother’s Market.

The store, with 25,000 square feet of floor space, has something for everyone. “People are always amazed at our depth of selection in the vitamin department,” Payette says. “And our deli area hosts a large variety of raw and international specialty items.”

The more spacious new home also created a much larger section for hard goods and a separate section for raw, packaged shelf-stable items. “The new store has the intimate, earthy feel of our roots, but expressed in a more spacious setting,” Payette says.

The Bite Market, Orange

The Bite is a new specialty store in the heart of Old Town Orange, focusing on  gluten-free and dairy-free foods, many of them taste-tested by the store’s owner, Bridget Reilly, or recommended by customers. Both Reilly and her son are gluten intolerant, and because she was tired of driving to multiple stores to shop for food, Reilly opened a store that caters to special-diets shoppers but also makes room for fresh produce and bulk basics. “We’re both a gluten-free store and a neighborhood market,” she says. “There was no market in our old downtown, and there was such a need for one.”

Since The Bite opened last August, Reilly has used local newspapers and a Facebook presence (more than 750 people “liked” the store in early February) to get the word out. She has also reached out to celiac groups and a local school for students with autism.

The retail space is a cozy 1,100 square feet, with a room in back for classes and seminars, including Saturday yoga. In addition to its full selection of fresh, frozen and grocery items that are gluten free and dairy free, The Bite boasts farmers’ market produce, a kids’ play area and pastries from a local baker.

Licata’s Nutrition Center, Orange
The Bite may be the new kid on the block, but its building mate, Licata’s, has sold vitamins in downtown Orange since 1962. “We’re an old-fashioned mom-and-pop health food store, and we were the first vitamin store in Orange,” says Tom Licata, owner and son of the founder.

In the 1,500-square-foot space, Licata’s sells a full range of vitamins and herbs, and also has a special “cool room” to keep bulk foods fresh. “We have a unique store with a loyal customer base,” Licata says. “What sets us apart is personal attention—we know our customers by name.”

When The Bite asked to rent space in the building, Licata saw it as a win-win situation. “They don’t carry vitamins and we carry very few gluten-free groceries, but it seemed complementary,” Licata says. “Their customer base would frequent a store like ours, and vice versa.”

Whole Foods Market, Huntington Beach

Opened in October 2010, the 30,000- square-foot Huntington Beach Whole Foods Market has the giant selection of products shoppers expect, plus a few features that go beyond the norm. “We have a pizza and beer bar, with pizzas available either whole or by the slice, and beer on tap, which is a new concept for our region,” says Chevonne Ching, the store’s marketing manager.

Retailers on the tour will get an overview of store standards. “We’ll go over our seafood sustainability ranking, our meat department animal compassion program and our Health Starts Here program, which includes a healthy-eating specialist who consults with customers on their allergies and special dietary needs,” Ching says.

The store also features a wide variety of Vietnamese prepared foods, as well as Beach Bar 405, an in-store restaurant that serves ethnic cuisines from all over the world. 

Expo West 2011 Retail Store Tour

When: Thursday, March 10, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where: Meet at the Hilton bus loading area

Cost: $60, which can be added to your registration

Register: 866.458.4935;

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