Chris Paradissis, (L) VP store operations & store merchandising, stands with Pat McAvoy,(R) store manager of the Wilton Mrs. Green’s on opening day.
The buzz of the juice press machine at Mrs. Green’s Natural Market is steady, keeping pace with the buzzwords the chain’s CEO keeps saying: fresh, organic, unique and all-natural.
It’s clear those will be welcome words in the Wilton community. Judging by the steady stream of customers since it opened a week ago today, Wilton has been thrilled to say hello to Mrs. Green’s.
The Irvington, NY-based natural foods company has locations in Fairfield, Scarsdale, Stamford and elsewhere.
“We’ve been around for 22 years,” said Robin Michel, CEO of Mrs. Green’s. “What I try to do is look for locations where there really is a strong supportive community. We’ve spent a lot of time sourcing local providers in CT that don’t want to provide to larger retailers. We think that’s crucial. We want to support people that are manufacturing here, that want to be part of the community that really likes to know who is behind the counter, we can talk to you, we’ll remember—‘oh, I just got something in that I know you’ll love.’
At 15,000 square feet, it’s more of a boutique specialty food store as opposed to a 55,000 square foot supermarket chain. “But you can do an entire grocery store shop here,” Michel countered. “Everything from baby food to dog food. We may not have a thousand varieties of those things, but you can do your whole list. You can get something of everything that you can get in a grocery store in this location…and then some!”
Actually Michel said she doesn’t want to be similar to those big chains at all. “Everything at the deli is made in-house in our commissary, so you know it’s fresh. It’s all natural ingredients. No preservatives. There are nine different pizza varieties we’ve developed. When you see the artisan breads, they’re coming in fresh daily. From a bakery perspective, you’re not going to find these products someplace else. You’ll only find them in a restaurant, because that’s who we’re working with. They make them to our specifications. In fact, my logic is if it’s in Stop and Shop, I don’t want it. That’s not what I’m looking for.”
But she said it’s the produce department that really makes Mrs. Green’s stand apart. According to the store’s produce manager, Sam Hamilton, there are almost 300 different organic items stocked in the produce department, with fresh produce delivered to the market every day.
Michel is just as proud about that key department. “Our produce is 100 percent organic. Not half organic—100-percent organic. And the salad bar is 100-percent organic. Because in our mind that’s what we want to stand for. We think there’s a difference in the product, we think it eats differently, and that’s what we stand for.”
Some other things she touted: fair trade coffee, sustainably raised meats; and two banana sections—one for green and one for yellow, for different customer preferences. Michel also showed off the fresh pressed juice bar. “It’s not frozen yogurt, it’s fruit! It’s fruit, it’s water, it’s pure cane sugar, and it’s fabulous. Don’t leave without trying some! You aren’t going to find that elsewhere.”
Some of the freshness and organic elements do carry a higher cost, which Michel hopes customers will see the benefit that comes with the extra expense.
“I’ll let you try anything you want to try when you walk in the door. Because I don’t want you to look at a product and say, ‘Seriously? That’s a lot of money!’ What we hope we do, now and always, is say to people, ‘I know it’s a few cents more than elsewhere, but you won’t be unhappy if you do.’ And before you spend your money, I’ll open any package and I’ll let you try anything you want in the store, because that way, you’re going to say, ’ok, this really does taste better so it is worth it to me to spend more.’ But if you do think, ‘Gee that costs more than Lays potato chips, why would I spend it?’ Let me open it for you, because I’m telling you you’re going to feel better and it’s going to taste better.’”
Some other perks for Mrs. Green’s customers:
“If you spend $50 we’re going to give you a reusable bag. Pulling up in the parking lot, in bad weather, we’re going to load your bags right into your trunk. Those are some things that we want to do that are different than anybody else in this area,” said Michel, adding, “If there’s something you don’t like, tell us what it is so we can fix it. I can fix anything.”
Michel said she understood that coming into the community meant getting involved philanthropically too. They plan on donating to local Wilton organizations. “The store management can definitely do that. Because I want to be part of Wilton. The store managers are empowered to do that, to find out what’s important to Wilton. We’ll work with the Wilton Food Pantry, so you and I know everything will be eaten.”
Perhaps it was the excitement of opening day, but Michel was happy about the start.
“We’re glad to finally be open, and we’re glad to be in Wilton.”
Mrs. Green’s is located at 14 Danbury Road, in the same shopping plaza as T.J. Maxx and Michael’s. It’s in the space formerly occupied by Zeytinia’s.