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The First Health Food Store


weinoo
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In this topic about brown rices, I made reference to the first health-food store I ever visited. Yes, that's what they were called back in the day, which in this case was probably circa 1976.

As I mentioned in that topic, I had moved to Santa Barbara and was fully embracing the California healthy life style. Of course, that included health food; i.e. as Woody Allen said in his film Annie Hall, "I'll have the alfafa sprouts and mashed yeast." That said it all to a New York kid who had just spent a few years driving a taxicab.

I think the store was called Sunburst or Sunrise or something along those lines. It was a trip and I recall most of the customers looking like they were way too skinny and could've use a heaping helping of French fries...and a burger.

Do you remember the first health food store you ever visited? What were your impressions?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Yes! It was amazing, so different, and ... American. I was a little kid, then, and fresh from Florence, where they didn't run to health food stores, although they did have erboristerie. To me, it was one of the astonishing novelties of NYC.

It was (I think it's now gone) on the Upper West Side, not far from my grandafather's place. West side of Broadway, between 108th and 109th Streets, or perhaps one block up. No recollection of the name. The people who worked there partially confirmed my pre-exisiting impression--based on the backpackers I saw streaming through Florence--that Americans were either cowboys or hippies (apart from my parents, and a couple of their friends, who were 'parents', and thus part of another distinct species).

That health food store had a very intriguing scent, and the place fascinated me. My mother tended to stock up on boring things like soy flour, while my brother and I had had our eyes on various sweets, which we generally weren't permitted to have, and tended to be on the disappointing side when we did get them (this was still the era of the truly gnarly granola bar).

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
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mscioscia@egstaff.org

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In the early '70s I worked for an accounting firm and one of my clients was a newly opened health food store. During the course of preparing their financial statements, I had to go to their premises to confirm inventory, etc. I recall seeing a lot of products in burlap bags and what to me were weird foodstuffs. It was a small, cramped space. I don't remember ever buying anything. That same store is still in existence but moved to a different location. I now shop there every now and again for their organic fruit and vegetables.

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Back in college, circa 2002, when I was a punk and embraced the idea of scratch cooking and whole foods, I was back in my hometown for an appointment on afternoon, and looking for a place to buy a pack of cigarettes beforehand. I found myself on a stretch of road with no gas stations, but there was a Whole Foods. I had no idea what it was - I just assumed it was a normal grocery store, and would have cigarettes behind customer service. So I went in, and asked a register clerk for a pack of Marlboro lights. She looked at me with this mixture of disdain and incredulousness, and said, "We don't sell cigarettes. This is a HEALTH FOOD STORE."

For some reason, the only thing I could think of to say to her was, "But all the hippies I know smoke. Don't you have like American Spirits?" :laugh:

I shop at this Whole Foods regularly now, and remembering this makes me laugh.

"Nothing you could cook will ever be as good as the $2.99 all-you-can-eat pizza buffet." - my EX (wonder why he's an ex?)

My eGfoodblog: My corner of the Midwest

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The first health food store that I shopped at was in the Mar Vista area of W. Los Angeles. The tiny store was called Mrs. Gooch's, which later became Whole Foods.

Monterey Bay area

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The first health food store that I shopped at was in the Mar Vista area of W. Los Angeles. The tiny store was called Mrs. Gooch's, which later became Whole Foods.

I remember being in some in the 70's. A boyfriend shopped for his granola at Erewhon in Los Angeles (still around it looks like) and I liked the big bulk bins. The place smelled comfortingly nutty and grainy.

You reminded me that I did shop at Mrs. Gooch's as well. This was on Pier Ave. in Hermosa Beach, California. It was the closest market in walking distance of my place. I think it was billed more as a natural food store. I could do all my grocery shopping there. No alcohol though, as I recall.

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The first health food store I ever visited was called Harmony Farms. It was a small cramped store that sold all kinds of exotica I had never seen before. Lots of dried fruit - I was partial to the pineapple rings and papaya. This store still exists but I haven't visited it in ages. Now I usually just go to Fresh Market or Whole Foods.

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The first health food store I visited was Cayol Natural Foods in downtown Minneapolis. It was one of the few places in town to buy almond paste, so my Mom and I were regular clients.

They had the most wonderful frozen yogurt (this was before the craze with FY chains, etc.) that actually had the TANG of yogurt. It was refreshing on its own, or with the real fruit/nut/granola toppings.

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Early 1980's in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.. The store was called something like "Naturopata de San Juan" and my mom gave me a bar of carob and told me it was chocolate and brought home a large bag of granola (I swear that it came with twigs and assorted greenery).. Just remembering it makes me break into a cold cold sweat.. I need to go sit in a corner and think of churros and thick spanish hot chocolate now..

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The first health food store I visited was in Panorama City in the San Fernando Valley and it was in 1952 when I was out here for a visit with my dad.

The "Panorama Market" was a supermarket and produce market on Van Nuys Blvd., just south of Parthenia St. and right next door was the health food store that sold a lot of stuff than was not available in the regular market. (I remember huge jars of brewers yeast.)

Then, as similar stores do now, they sold herbal remedies and my dad and stepmom liked some of them as well as some other stuff that I don't recall. My dad used brewers yeast in health drinks that would equate to today's smoothies.

Health food stores have been a California fixture since the 1920s, according to some folks I have spoken with over the years. One (Billie Dove) told me about a health food store in Santa Monica in the early '20s who catered to movie people who wanted special diets to keep healthy with the rigorous demands of the work.

There was a sharp increase in the number of stores in the '60s and some morphed into supermarket types Mrs. Gooch's was rather late to the party.

A lot of the "ranch" markets - such as Bill's, that used to occupy a corner in Glendale at Glenoaks and Alameda, carried "natural" foods as well as the produce, much of it from "local" growers in the '60s - I lived in Burbank and shopped there regularly.

The Ivine ranch market in Orange County was also one such - We used to stop there on our way to or from San Diego.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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The first health food store that I shopped at was in the Mar Vista area of W. Los Angeles. The tiny store was called Mrs. Gooch's, which later became Whole Foods.

I used to shop there too, all the time when it was Mrs. Gooch's. I loved it, even though it was tiny.

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In this topic about brown rices, I made reference to the first health-food store I ever visited. Yes, that's what they were called back in the day, which in this case was probably circa 1976.

As I mentioned in that topic, I had moved to Santa Barbara and was fully embracing the California healthy life style. Of course, that included health food; i.e. as Woody Allen said in his film Annie Hall, "I'll have the alfafa sprouts and mashed yeast." That said it all to a New York kid who had just spent a few years driving a taxicab.

I think the store was called Sunburst or Sunrise or something along those lines. It was a trip and I recall most of the customers looking like they were way too skinny and could've use a heaping helping of French fries...and a burger.

Do you remember the first health food store you ever visited? What were your impressions?

Whoa! I used to shop at that store back in 1978 shortly after my first husband and I were married. We lived an easy drive from there and it was sort of exotic and weird. I soon decided it was too expensive and only shopped there for Alta Dena raw milk. There was an awesome Mexican bakery up the hill from there, on the turn by the County Bowl, though. I loved that place and still love Santa Barbara.

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Probably late-70's/early-80's. In SoCal, most probably Long Beach or somewhere in the South Bay. I can't remember the name, or the exact location. I remember it smelled....*odd*. Not nutty/toasty, but more vitaminy, fish oil-y. They also sold supplements....

I wandered around, thought "what the hell am I going to do with wheat bran and flax" and wandered back out. No produce, no meats, nothing but bulk grains and the supplements. And granola bars/heavy looking cookies and muffins and such.

Between the leaden looking food (I think I picked up a package of 4 muffins that weighed well over 2 pounds) and that vitaminy smell, I knew it was NOT my cup of wholistic tea.

--Roberta--

"Let's slip out of these wet clothes, and into a dry Martini" - Robert Benchley

Pierogi's eG Foodblog

My *outside* blog, "A Pound Of Yeast"

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Whoa! I used to shop at that store back in 1978 shortly after my first husband and I were married. We lived an easy drive from there and it was sort of exotic and weird. I soon decided it was too expensive and only shopped there for Alta Dena raw milk.

I remember that brand.

Probably late-70's/early-80's. In SoCal, most probably Long Beach or somewhere in the South Bay. I can't remember the name, or the exact location. I remember it smelled....*odd*. Not nutty/toasty, but more vitaminy, fish oil-y.

Nowadays, many of these places still have a "smell" though in my opinion, it's generally that bad curry lentilish prepared food smell.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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My first post here. My first health-food store was in the college town I grew up. It was in a turn of the century house is was in the early '70's and in the middle of the midwest. I also was a member at the first "Whole-Food Co-op" in New Orleans uptown off of Carrolton. This was in an old corner store. I didn't realize at the time I should have bought stock.

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Welcome, chutney! This is a great place to share and to learn.

My dad liked the bargain prices on bulk items at the Food Mill in Oakland, CA in the early 70s. We'd stop there on trips to or from the city, toting a box of gallon pickle jars to be filled up with beans and rices and get mysterious bags of spices and more. I was always disappointed that he wouldn't any of the mysterious cookies and other treats for us to try, but having tried a few such things here and there since, we didn't miss much. It was so much more interesting than the regular grocery stores, and I've been drawn to bulk bins ever since.

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There was a Co-op in the basement of a church when I was in college but my first health food store was in Saskatoon Saskatchewan. It was a tiny place, also a coop if I remember and the single mom who worked there was getting a welfare subsidy.

When I first went in her hair was wild, her face and arms bruised, and she was cheerfully describing in great detail to a person checking out how her ex came by and beat the snot out of her and the look on the neighbors face when she escaped and showed up on the doorstep buck naked with hair yanked into a tangled mess. I wandered around the other side of the one free-standing display waiting to ask if I had to be a member to shop there but not wanting to interrupt. It became more and more absurd as the tale went on and on with my obvious eavesdropping trapped in the store (I wasn't suave enough to just head out saying "It's cool I'll come back."). I pretty much fell in love with her.

It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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The Kiva in Eugene, OR, in the early-mid 1980's. First time I saw foods sold in bulk, outside of a farmstand or farmers' market. It was small, but pleasant. Several years ago I was in that part of Eugene, & the store was still there. Next place I went to was Sundance Foods, a little bigger, and I think sold meat as well, plus a good wine section, iirc, some OR wines-there were not nearly as many wineries in OR then as there are now. I think it still exists, and is in the same location too, but I'm not sure about that. It was visiting those stores, plus going to the Saturday Farmers' & Craft market in Eugene (I could walk to it) that got me interested in organically grown produce, why it might be better for the soil & water, if not for me.

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