PLYMOUTH, Minn. - On Wednesday, Minnesota will welcome its fifth Fresh Thyme grocery store -- one of eight slated for the state in the coming years. But what is it? And how is it different from other grocers?
Here's a little breakdown of what you can expect ...
Local Farmers Market approach
"We like to take a weekend farmers market you'd go to and bring it into local neighborhoods, and put it in a store," said Troy Logan, director of operations for the northwest region.
The idea is simple -- bring in fresh produce from local farms every morning, with an emphasis on organic and natural, and display them in a grocery store setting.
The selection ends up being more than 200 USDA certified organic items, a huge selection of fresh fruit and vegetables and more than 20 different organic herbs, coming from more than 50 local farms.
"As we come into a market, we like to identify local growers who have the ability to supply a chain like ours, so we can tap in and get those local fruits and vegetables," Logan said.
Beyond the produce known to be front and center at farmers markets, the store brings in other local goods -- everything from honey, freshly squeezed juices (made on site), fresh sausages handmade in-house, plus organic and natural health products.
"As we continue to develop those (local) relationships, we want to have those local, small business owners be a part of Fresh Thyme," he said.
Emphasis on organic, gluten-free
While many grocery stores are steering in the direction of more natural, organic products for its customers, Fresh Thyme says they also put an emphasis on making those items affordable.
"We have a lot of natural, gluten-free options here and really, we want people to come in and be able to feed their family healthy products but we don't want you to spend the farm to be able to do that," Logan said.
Fresh Thyme opened its chain of grocery stores about two and a half years ago, starting in the Chicago area. The idea then was to bring an option to consumers that would have an abundance of choices for gluten-free, organic and even dairy-free products but keep the prices low.
"There was just a gap in this part of the country, that hadn't really gotten to that as far as the natural, organic and fresh," he said.
Beyond the food options, the store also has a variety of gluten-free cosmetics, gluten-free beer, earth-friendly cleaning supplies, plus natural vitamins, supplements, probiotics and body care items.
That said, not everything is organic. There's a variety of other products to cater to every kind of consumer.
How does the price compare?
Many people have compared Fresh Thyme as a cross between Trader Joe's prices and Whole Foods' selection.
Logan said they are in a league of their own.
"I haven't seen anything in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market that has produce prices that are at as low of retail prices that we have," he said.
A few examples? Organic strawberries were shown as 4 for $5 for one-pound packages. Bell peppers (red, yellow and orange) were advertised as 77 cents each. The dairy products, which range from almond milk, organic and other dairy-free options, can be found around $1.99.
At the front of each store, there's a "Giving Tree" board where the specific store highlights its local partners that are supported with donations.
"We're really tied to the community," Logan said.
On certain days throughout the year, Fresh Thyme will give 5 percent of its proceeds to a local charity.
Beyond monetary offerings, the store also works with local food shelves, donating any food and acceptable overflow items when possible. Currently, they've been working with Second Hand Harvest.
Where can you find them?
Fresh Thyme opens to the public on Wednesday at its new Plymouth location but beyond that, there are four other locations currently open -- in Apple Valley, Savage, Bloomington and Vadnais Heights. Not all locations have an adjoining liquor store, check specific stores for details.
A St. Cloud location will open in January, in the Waite Park area, and by spring, there will be a store in St. Louis Park.
"We just broke ground on Prospect Park, which is between Minneapolis and St. Paul, on University Avenue on the light rail line," Logan said. There is no opening date scheduled for that location but construction is underway.
Fresh Thyme is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. For more information, click here.