Natural Foods Merchandiser

The Store of the Future Finds a Home in Costa Rica

Retailer Robert Roman won many of the fixtures and some of the contents of the Store of the Future in a drawing at Natural Products Expo West 2003 in March. Roman, who has been the general manager of Nature's Food Patch in Clearwater, Fla., since 1999, is leaving the store this month to become the purchasing manger for U.S. Organic Fruit Co. in Costa Rica. The Miami-based exporter of American organic foods to Central and South America is currently distributing products from Pacific Foods, Muir Glen, Yummi Bears Vitamins and Supplements and Alacer Corp. to supermarkets and macrobioticas, or health food stores.

"The folks at U.S. Organic Fruit Co. in Costa Rica have talked about opening a natural products store in the future, but now I've won the Store of the Future," said Roman, who has been in the industry for 29 years, working as a retailer and as national sales manager at Rapunzel Pure Organics. "So the idea of having a store in Costa Rica has certainly become more of a reality."

Ivy Kraidy, vice president of U.S. Organic Fruit, has found a retail space in a mini mall in Escazu, a suburb of San Jose, the Costa Rican capital where many American expatriates live.

Roman said there's a strong market for natural items throughout Central America. "Many native children have dairy allergies, so soymilk has been very valuable to the parents," he said.

The Store of the Future was designed by Cedarburg, Wis.-based Solterra Studios, a division of Retailworks, and featured fixtures made from eco-friendly building materials, including flooring created from recycled rubber sneakers, bookshelves made from sunflower seed hulls and a recycled plastic endcap display.

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