WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn. -- "Back-to-nature" is bringing shoppers into Kowalski's Market here.
The three-unit independent, which is based in St. Paul, has placed a heavy emphasis on natural foods and nutrition in its recently remodeled unit here. In addition to placing natural foods throughout the store, Kowalski's has added an 800-square-foot nutrition shop devoted to all-natural foods, homeopathic remedies, vitamins and other nutrition-oriented products.
The department devotes 12 feet to books and counts cookbooks, books on herbs, homeopathic medicines and books for people who suffer from various food allergies among its titles. Another 12 feet is devoted to teas, encompassing herbal, black, green and antioxidant teas in its assortment.
"We have teas sampled all the time -- 24 hours a day -- out of an air pot dispenser. We have two air pots and a permanent tea station or counter. We always have two kinds of tea that they can try," Laurel Yesberger, Kowalski's natural food specialist, told SN.
Over 100 stockkeeping units are available in the tea section. Brands stocked in the department include the full Celestial Seasonings line and Traditional Medicinals brands. Regular teas, such as Lipton and Tetley, are stocked in the tea section in the grocery department.
Yesberger said Kowalski's is looking at creating its own private-label line of herbal teas to stock in the nutrition section, but has been having trouble finding a supplier.
"There are so many limitations when you try to private
label because you have to order a certain amount, and sometimes that amount is so outrageous, especially when you are just starting. It is not really a price issue, but the manufacturer has to have so many labels printed up to make the cost worth it to them. And we don't just want to put a plain sticker on the package; we want it to be professional," she said.
Yesberger said the nutrition department has been well-received by shoppers.
"We've had so many customers so interested and glad that they don't have to drive all the way into the cities to a co-op or a natural food store to find these items. We're just a little bit north of the Twin Cities, and pretty soon, once people hear about us, we will be supplying the whole northern and eastern suburbs with their natural and organic foods and natural nutrition items," she said, adding that natural food is especially popular with Twin Cities-area residents.
Yesberger said she works in the department 40 hours per week.
"I try and be here when customers are, including weekends," she said. To further assist customers, Yesberger regularly schedules "fireside gatherings" that address health concerns and are held in front of a large fireplace in the store.
"I'm really pro education. I think education is the key," she said. "People have to realize why this is so important and why a lot of people don't even look at the labels on their food and wonder what those chemicals are. We have classes up front on what are natural foods, what are organic foods. We're having someone come in and talk about homeopathy and herbs. I have a friend who teaches yoga and she is going to come in and talk to the customers."
Yesberger said Kowalski's is placing all-natural foods throughout the store, which is "something kind of new" for the area.
"We are integrating them throughout the store. They are in with the regular groceries, and we are increasing that number every week. We have them all pegged specially. I created shelf tags, and some say natural and some say organic. All of the natural ones are one color and all of the organic are another," she said.