Before Nature’s Pantry opened, there were few options in State College for purchasing a wide selection of natural foods. This void in the marketplace in part spurred on owner Michele Briggs when she set out to create Nature’s Pantry. After 25 years of successfully serving the Centre Region with a vast array of all-natural, allergy-free and responsibly-sourced food items, however, Briggs knew there was still room for improvement.
“The beginning of last year, we decided to do a complete product re-evaluation and store reset. We did a major turnaround of our shelves (and) reinvigorated our product mix,” Briggs said. “We’ve expanded our selection of things that are more relevant to today’s consumer. We expanded our paleo selection. We discontinued some things that were, in my mind, old favorites that no longer sold. They were just my old friends that I didn’t feel like kicking off the shelf.”
Some items especially took off after the expansion, Briggs said.
“Kombucha has been huge, especially because we have so many great local kombucha producers. Our kombucha section has sort of an eye line from the front door,” she said. “When people walk in they’re like, ‘Wow, you’ve got six shelves of local kombucha!’ ”
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The reorganization and product evaluation was good for both customers and Nature’s Pantry employees. Staff can now more easily monitor the entire store and conveniently operate with smaller numbers, while customers find the new layout easier to navigate.
“I think it’s made the store much more shop-able for (customers) and it’s less confusing for them. Things are more clearly laid out than what they were before,” Briggs said.
The new layout and products aren’t the only changes at Nature’s Pantry. The store also now hosts a weekend farmers market, Saturdays 10 a.m.–1 p.m.
“We partnered with Tony Musso from Nittany Valley Organics,” Briggs said. “He has put together the lineup of Saturday morning vendors and he’s gathered people from all of the markets in the Centre Region. He’s chosen from all the different markets, to try to get a well-rounded product mix.”
Among the products available, Briggs lists breads, cheeses, meats, kombucha and wool products. According to the farmers market-dedicated Facebook page, wares also include seafood, organic toiletries and spices.
“(The farmers market) was something that we have wanted to do since we bought this place,” Briggs said. “It was one of the things we had planned on originally using that space for and just have never had the time to actually put it together.”
Located indoors in the Nature’s Pantry warehouse, it’s also one of the few winter markets in the area. Additionally, Briggs said that “I think we probably have more vendors (than other year-round markets). I think we have a more trafficked location. I think it’ll be slow getting it off the ground, but I think we have a destination location in Nature’s Pantry and a lot of our customers are people who already shop at the farmers markets.”
The farmers market at Nature’s Pantry has only been operational since Dec. 1 and Briggs said it’s up to the vendors themselves if the market continues during the spring and summer.
“This is very much led by the vendors collaborating and making decisions about how they want this to be and so I think it’ll be up to them to decide whether they’re going back to their other venues or what they’ll do come springtime,” she said.
With new vendors added each week thus far, the farmers market is slowly growing and online commenters are already raving about the plentiful options available at the convenient location.