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Greener pastures

BriarPatch Co-op has come a long way from its meager beginnings in a warehouse on the Nevada County Airport entrance road more than 30 years ago.

The local staple has grown into its new home, which opens at 7 a.m. today in front of the Sierra College Drive roundabout. Past and present store officials said the business has come a long way.

“It’s a big step,” said Harry Bailey, a founding BriarPatch board member.



Business at the unique, natural food market consistently has grown, Bailey said.

“In the last 10 to 15 years, the store has just grown significantly,” Bailey said. Typically, the store’s business has been expanding at a rate of about 10 percent to 20 percent each quarter, compared to the corresponding quarter of the previous year, he said.




One look at the new store and the positive evolution is easy to understand.

The store has more than tripled in size, from 3,000-square feet at the previous incarnation on Joerschke Drive to 11,000-square feet at the new building.

A fish, meat and poultry department, absent in the previous store, is included at the new store, Mandel-Austin said.

“Eventually, we’ll have all Nevada County free-range beef,” Mandel-Austin said.

More than 20 local farms are providing produce at the new store; they are listed on a side wall in the produce section. Key “green” or environmental construction elements also are posted.

A deli that offered only a few sandwiches and needed three employees to help customers at the former site has expanded to a multi-faceted counter serving wraps, sandwiches, burgers and smoothies – and employs 40, said Stephanie Mandel-Austin, the store’s marketing manager.

The new store has 123 employees, compared to 60 employees at the Joerschke Drive store, which closed Friday.

A community room, which the previous location did not have, also is included at the new store.

The community room is a key aspect that board members wanted, even though “it hurts our retail sales,” said Alan Weisberg, a store board member. It will be used for board meetings, workshops and classes, he said.

A series of workshops on alternatives to factory farming already is planned, Mandel-Austin said.

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To contact Staff Writer Greg Moberly, e-mail gregm@theunion .com or call 477-4234.


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