We’re asking customers to share what they love about their local natural products store. This month, the spotlight shines on one shopper’s experience at Eats Natural Foods, in Blacksburg, VA.In business since 1974, "community hub" Eats Natural Foods offers a selection of organic, natural and gourmet foods—both local and from around the world—organic produce, gluten free foods, cheeses, culinary herbs and spices, household products, supplements, body care products, and supplies for brewing wine and beer, in Blacksburg, VA.
Lotte, Content Manager for Brew Smartly, discovered Eats Natural Foods during their time at Virginia Tech. “The joy of Eats Natural is that it’s a real old-fashioned health food store," says Lotte. "Not everything it sells is old fashioned, far from it, but the hand-drawn signs, food co-op flyers, notice board covered in signage for local events ranging from the Floyd jamboree to dog walking services, could belong to any era."
A popular destination for free-spirited consumers in the 70s, Lotte recalls, the store has become popular in new markets catering to healthy conscious consumers, nutrition majors and anyone looking for a decent Hispanic ingredients selection. Lotte shares: “You’ll find international students looking for a taste of home, vegan hipsters grabbing pulled jackfruit, housewives getting bulk flour, and grey-haired old hippies picking up beeswax lip balm and healing crystals, all in one store.”
In fact, Lotte adds, “through expanding their range over the years rather than slimming it down or making it purely fad-based health foods, Eats has amassed a really diverse customer base.”
The retailer also thrives on its links to the community. There’s a generous membership scheme, plus they sell loads of local products, Lotte says: “From locally grown seasonal fruit and veg, to honey made by small local farms, to bread and baked goods fresh from Bollo’s coffee shop, and locally made kombucha on tap, local produce and community are clearly incredibly important to Eats.”
Eats Natural Food prioritizes staffing its store with workers who value sustainability and individuals who work hard to keep new, fun, and interesting products on the shelves, with the top priority always being pure ingredients. “We check ingredients on all products before ordering and have strict standards for what we will bring into the store," staffers told WholeFoods. "You will never find anything at Eats that includes hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, or artificial preservatives and colors.”
Dealing well with COVID, according to Lotte’s standards, the retailer has offered vulnerable populations exclusive shopping hours and created a curbside pick-up option.
Lotte’s bottom line: Eats Natural is something of a community hub in Blacksburg. “I think they’re a really good example of a small store serving quite a large local community in a place most people might not expect there to be demand for a whole foods/natural foods store.”