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Capturing bike traffic on Williams: A chat with New Seasons Market CEO Lisa Sedlar

Posted by on January 11th, 2012 at 3:51 pm

New Seasons Market CEO
Lisa Sedlar.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Since New Seasons Market announced they were coming to the Williams/Vancouver corridor in North Portland I’ve been hoping to catch up with CEO Lisa Sedlar to hear more about their plans for bike access and to get her vibe on transportation issues in the area. I met Sedlar at a meeting of the North Williams Traffic Safety Operations Project yesterday and we finally connected for a Q & A via phone this morning.

One of things I was most interested to hear her address is whether or not the high volume of bike traffic on Williams (and Vancouver) played into their decision. While she said they’ve been considering a store in this neighborhood since 2008 and that its designation as a “food desert” by Mayor Sam Adams put it on their radar, Sedlar said the presence of bike traffic “definitely” played into their decision.

“We see the hundreds of cyclists going up and down Williams every day and we could see that we could capture this traffic.”

Map of location (in red). Williams Ave runs north on the right side and Vancouver is on the left.

Speaking of traffic, there are some underlying concerns that the new store will increase vehicle trips and further complicate an already stressful traffic environment. Sedlar said that’s not how she envisions it. “The idea of opening in an underserved area,” she said is “capturing the traffic that’s here now so people don’t have to leave the neighborhood to get groceries.”

Given the neighborhood discourse around the Williams project of late, I was pleased to find out that New Seasons’ Operations Manager Elizabeth Nardi lives in the Eliot neighborhood and has been attending project meetings as a resident for the past several months.

When it comes to specific traffic engineering changes, Sedlar offered a few bits of info and some perspectives.

Summer bike traffic-16-16

Traffic to capture.

Sedlar said they’ve already begun conversations with project developer Roger Collins (of Ivy Street Partners) and others about “strengthening” the existing traffic signals at Fremont and Williams “so they’re way more visible.” In addition, she mentioned creating a “left turn deceleration lane” on Williams and enhancing crosswalk visibility on all the intersections around the store.

As for her opinion on the proposed one-lane Williams option, Sedlar said, “Vancouver is one lane and that seems to work fine,” but she qualified that by adding, “I’m not the traffic expert.” Sedlar plans to stay involved with the planning process, which is still focused on setting guidelines and outcomes and hasn’t re-started design and engineering ideas since the public process rebooted back in August.

Above all else, when it comes to transportation issues, Sedlar wants to see vehicle speeds come down. “My strong opinion,” she said, “Is I’d like to see the traffic slowed down all along Williams because of potential for accidents with cyclists, pedestrians, buses and motor vehicle traffic.” She added that they’ll “do everything we can” to install new signage along the corridor telling vehicle operators to slow down and to expect the presence of bicycles.

Another major player in this discussion is Mr. Collins from Ivy Street Partners. According to Sedlar, he’s considering a mixed-use development on the south side of the same block New Seasons is building on. Sedlar says it would have small retail shops on the bottom and affordable-housing designated apartments on top.

Now let’s talk about bike access…

Sedlar says that, like their Hawthorne store, the new location will have more bike parking than car parking. They don’t know exactly how many bike spaces there will be (they’ve announced 60 car spots, plus an additional 12 on the street), but Sedlar said there’d be plenty. She also mentioned that they’ll make sure most of the bike parking is covered because, “Getting onto a wet bicycle seat isn’t a fun thing.”

It’s also not fun to get caught with a flat without a pump or show up to shop without a lock. But don’t fret, they’ll have you covered. Expect loaner U-locks, patch kits, and a tire pump at the new store (as well as basic bike necessities like tubes and lights for sale of course).

During our chat I told Sedlar how many people have large cargo bikes and it might be worth having a special “Family/Cargo Bike Parking” area set aside. She loved the idea and asked if I’d like to do a site walk-through with a PBOT parking staffer to flesh out some ideas. Another idea I ran by her was providing small gear lockers for people that show up by bike. I think providing space for rain gear, panniers, and other valuables people don’t like to leave attached to their bikes, is the next big thing for bike-friendly businesses. Sedlar agreed and I’m hopeful we see those innovative amenities in the new store.

Speaking of ideas and feedback, Sedlar and New Seasons have a good record of listening to neighborhoods. When they moved into the Hawthorne area in southeast Portland, Sedlar shared, initial plans called for a ramp to rooftop parking on SE 41st Avenue. However, after neighbors told them that street sees a lot of bike traffic, they changed the plans and put the ramp on SE 41st. “We flipped the whole configuration of the store based on feedback from the neighborhood.”

In the end, Sedlar wants BikePortland readers to remember that her company is “really thoughtful about what it means to ride your bike to the grocery store and that safety is our foremost concern.”

Tell New Seasons what you’d like to see in the design of their new store in the comments and stay tuned for updates.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Michael, Portland Afoot
    Michael, Portland Afoot January 11, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    I *don’t* mean this as a criticism of the project, of the proposal to increase safety on Williams, or of new development in general, but doesn’t Sedlar’s statement here seem like proof positive that improving bike access on tends to bring gentrification?

    I’ve got all sorts of privilege, but I’m a tenant (not a gentry) and I don’t shop at New Seasons; I can’t afford it.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 11, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      How so Michael? The part about how bike traffic played into the decision? If that’s what you’re referring to, I disagree. The bike traffic is simply vehicle traffic… She didn’t say anything about the spending power or personal incomes of people on bikes.

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      • Michael, Portland Afoot
        Michael, Portland Afoot January 11, 2012 at 4:28 pm

        That’s what I was referring to, and that’s a persuasive point.

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      • Dan Liu January 12, 2012 at 7:51 pm

        A huge problem about any gentrification argument is that it’s so difficult to establish cause and effect relationships. Is putting a New Seasons’ in the heart of the old Portland African American community the beginning of higher rents that push lower income residents to move? Or is it the result (as Lisa Sedlar’s comments partly suggest) of some process that has already occurred to dramatically increase bike and car traffic volumes on Vancouver & Williams, which New Seasons sees as an opportunity to tap into? Fairly or not (I lean towards not), within the confines of these debates bicycle traffic is no longer seen by a lot of players as “merely” traffic, but as either a symptom or a cause of gentrification — and what’s worse is that there is no satisfyingly objective measure of bicycle traffic as symptom or cause.

        I have no doubt a nice grocery store with heavy bicycle traffic will be good for the neighborhood; whether it will be good for the neighbors I think is an open question still, but the presence of a significant power broker in the neighborhood will be decisive in the development and improvement of the Vancouver-Williams transit corridor.

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    • wsbob January 12, 2012 at 1:16 am

      Sounds like Sedlar has the right idea:

      “We see the hundreds of cyclists going up and down Williams every day and we could see that we could capture this traffic.”

      “The idea of opening in an underserved area,” she said is “capturing the traffic that’s here now so people don’t have to leave the neighborhood to get groceries.”

      There may be reason to question how many of the people riding up and down Williams, and that live in the area, can afford to shop at NS, but most likely some of them do. Sedlar says more or less straight out that part of NS market research involved taking note of what kinds of people are riding by and whether they’re potential customers. Maybe NS browsed bikeportland too, because stories and comments here have given some idea of some of the types of people riding by.

      By itself, improving bike access isn’t going to bring gentrification, but a store like NS seems to be one of the types of businesses that would attract other businesses, housing and services that are complimentary to gentrification. A number of elements together could gradually snowball towards gentrification.

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  • Alain January 11, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    60 parking spaces sounds ugly. A realty, perhaps, but maybe consider other options. I don’t think the Grocery Outlet on Lombard even has as many as 60 spaces?

    Trim the lot to 30 parking spaces and use some of that space for a covered seating area. Something with drought tolerant and low-maintenance plants and canopy or roof over head.

    There is Unthank Park a few blocks south, but it might be a nice option for the folks working to have a outdoor spot to take breaks.

    At Arbor Lodge there is indoor seating on the south side of the building, but not much outside seating that I can think of. Of course, there is probably the fear or concern that outdoor seat attracts transients.

    I still like the previous comments in previous threads about putting a few more floors up top for rental or purchase. There’s the 40 or 60+ unit place being built 1-2 blocks north on Williams, and the zoning allows for more height.

    Might be a nice challenge for New Seasons to attempt a multi-level building as none of their other stores are part of a mixed-use building.

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    • wsbob January 11, 2012 at 8:00 pm

      Good point about ideas proposed and discussed in the earlier story, for a multi-story mixed use structure for housing New Seasons. Particularly considering the following statement from this story:

      “…Another major player in this discussion is Mr. Collins from Ivy Street Partners. According to Sedlar, he’s considering a mixed-use development on the south side of the same block New Seasons is building on. Sedlar says it would have small retail shops on the bottom and affordable-housing designated apartments on top. …” maus/bikeportland

      In the earlier story, wasn’t it reported that Ivy Street has something to do with either the land or the design of the building that New Season’s will be occupying?

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    • middle of the road guy January 12, 2012 at 9:09 am

      I say make it 90 spots.

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  • SilkySlim January 11, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Forget lockers, a coat rack that has a warm fan on it would be great. And spot to put gloves/hat on prongs to dry.

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  • John Lascurettes January 11, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    … initial plans called for a ramp to rooftop parking on SE 41st Avenue. However, after neighbors told them that street sees a lot of bike traffic, they changed the plans and put the ramp on SE 41st.

    Jonathan, I think there’s an error there somewhere. 🙂

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  • BEN January 11, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    I think New Seasons moving into this vacant lot is fantastic. I support it 100%. One aspect of the design process that I think should be given more thought is the car parking on the street. There are already a proposed 60 spots in the actual parking lot. I think the on street parking would definitely complicate the situation. Everyone heading North already has to worry about getting “doored” in between Fremont and Shaver and everywhere for that matter. I say NO to the 12 on street parking spots.
    New Seasons is already forward thinking in terms of limiting the amount of car parking spots. I would like to see a precedent be set with this store and have a significant reduction of car spots. This would be the location to do that, sandwiched between two of the most heavily traveled bike lanes in the city. Also, great idea about the family corral for cargo bikes, they are awesome and all, but those suckers take up A LOT of space. Definitely excited to see this take shape!!

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  • dwainedibbly January 11, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    Since it’s a new building anyway, perhaps it could be designed so that in the future housing could be added above at a later date, as a future project. No need to do it now while the economy is down and it might be hard to arrange funding, but in 5 or 10 years New Seasons would have the option of doing this.

    Also, it’s nice to hear that they’re open to listening to JM’s suggestions.

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    • maccoinnich January 11, 2012 at 9:37 pm

      This isn’t impossible to do, but it’s extraordinarily difficult.

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    • middle of the road guy January 12, 2012 at 9:13 am

      Adding housing to a building that is already in use is not easy, nor convenient for the customers.

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      • Chris I January 13, 2012 at 7:25 am

        It would be easier to build another building on the parking lot, with parking for the store in the basement.

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  • RH January 11, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    More bike parking than cars, yay! 60 car spots total seems fair for a business that is also trying to capture auto traffic. Make the bike parking more convenient than auto to perhaps entice more folks to bike there. No need for lockers…that just gets complicated. I think this store is a good fit….imagine if a mini Walmart tried to come along…

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    • spare_wheel January 11, 2012 at 9:33 pm

      oh yawn. i live close to the hawthorne store and *never* shop there. most of the sport are not covered and many of them are obstructed. the hawthorne fred meyers is far more bike friendly than new seasons.

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      • Allan Folz January 12, 2012 at 10:10 am

        Interstate Fred Meyers has more and better bike parking than Interstate New Seasons. New Seasons talks a good game but I haven’t seen them delivering yet, and this latest project appears incredibly underwhelming.

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  • Schrauf January 11, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    If Sedlar sees “hundreds of cyclists going up and down Williams every day” then there are too many people riding on the sidewalk or riding the wrong way down one-way streets. Or maybe she is not familiar with the area.

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  • Doug Klotz January 11, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    I just hope that PBOT will have a little more consideration for pedestrians, and make sure that the bike spaces are on NS’s property, instead of blocking up all the sidewalks for bike parking, like PBOT let them do at Hawthorne. If NS hopes to capture a lot of neighborhood walking trips, there needs to be more than 5 or 6 feet of sidewalk left free of obstructions.

    On Hawthorne, staff said they’d make sure the bike racks were put near the curb, so walkers wouldn’t be forced to veer in and out among the street trees. However, the racks ended up where people want to walk, nearer the building.

    Then there’s the shopping carts, which PBOT staff said wouldn’t be allowed to be parked on the sidewalk. Yet, they’re there every day, all day. The PBOT staff in charge of that say that as long as there’s 6′, that’s all they think peds need.

    I hope NS feels like reducing the amount of car spaces they can have, so they can put bike racks in their parking lot, but the temptation is to use the free public ROW instead.

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  • Joe Rowe January 11, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    Covered bike parking was deleted in the Arbor Lodge store. 4 bike racks moved out to the rain. Covered spots now used for flower sales.

    New Seasons should oppose the CRC that will spell a long term set of problems for North Portland.

    Myself and friends have suggested they give a 5 cent discount for bikes and peds in the spirit of 5 cents for your own bag.

    Small stuff could happen, but no action.

    Love their staff. I despise the flip/flop from top executives and founders. Talk is cheap. This interview left out the hard questions. I dare the new seasons to answer the questions by the readers like me.

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  • Dan V January 12, 2012 at 9:26 am

    Want to make Williams/Vancouver safer for all? Reduce the speed limit to 25 mph. And while I’m very glad to see a grocery going into this neighborhood, I’m still on the fence about it’s affordability.

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  • deborah January 12, 2012 at 9:58 am

    I appreciate the store on Hawthorne and 41st and it’s bike centric design immensely. If they make the proposed store on Williams the same or better it should be a real help to those that live in the area.

    At the Hawthorne location the traffic speeds in the vicinity of the store have slowed and become a lot more manageable for pedestrians and bicyclists, while still being very convenient for car traffic too.

    Before the store went in there were far fewer pedestrians that would make there way down to the businesses past Chavez. Now almost every time I go I see plenty of pedestrian traffic walking up and down the street shopping. Grocery stores, especially ones that are well thought out and amenable with their neighbors, are great for the communities that they reside within.

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  • Sigma January 12, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Re-open Ivy as a public street. More intersections = slower traffic.

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  • Susan Rosenthal January 12, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Some type of affordable housing on top of this building would be nice. If that is not feasible, then perhaps the store could devote some space to showcasing products made by folks in the local community. Another possibility would be a job training program invoolving local youth.

    Working with the city to get traffic speeds lowered on N. Williams would also be very valuable.

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  • commuter January 12, 2012 at 11:43 am

    I am full support of this New Seasons coming to my neighborhood, and I love the fact that New Seasons is open-minded about ways to accomodate cyclists and deal with increased traffic.

    Our neighborhood badly needs a grocery store within walking and biking distance. I can’t wait for it to be built! Thank you New Seasons!

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  • gumby January 12, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    New season’s built a store in my neighborhood at Killingsworth and NE 33rd (their second, I believe). It has been a huge boon to the neighborhood. They are great neighbors and a great asset.

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  • John Beaston January 12, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Cargo bike parking! Yes. Great idea Jonathan. Don’t forget bikes with trailers as well. And covered parking is a big plus.

    This is a great example of a local company trying to be attune to the needs of a neighborhood. How likely would it be for the CEO of Freddie’s or Walmart to give such an interview and offer to get input?

    I would also suggest to Ms Sedlar to include a beer/wine bar similar to the one at their Beaverton store.

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  • zefwagner January 12, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    I would like to see someone provide some hard evidence that New Seasons is actually more expensive than other grocery stores. Last time I checked they carry Western Family brands and Wheat Thins alongside the more expensive organic options. It may be that people perceive it to be more expensive because they carry premium items, even though they also provide cheaper options. I remember reading a study awhile back that found Whole Foods is only more expensive because their customers tend to choose the expensive brands on the shelf. If you buy nothing but their generic non-organic 365 brand, it’s pretty cheap. The only thing I’ve noticed they lack is cheap produce, but that’s because they have a pretty firm commitment to quality. The area does have a produce market, so that’s not as much of an issue anyway.

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    • A.K. January 13, 2012 at 11:01 am

      I think when you’re referencing the 365 brand, you’re referring to Whole Foods, not New Seasons. But on that point I’ll agree with you – I feel I have a much easier time remaining in-budget at Whole Foods than I do at New Seasons.

      As an example, I purchased some butternut squash ravioli at New Seasons recently (in the past month), and the package was $6. So for two packages of ravioli, plus sauce (around $4) was approximately $16. I purchased butternut squash ravioli at Trader Joes for $3. Half the price. Just one example.

      It would be interesting for someone who has a lot of time on their hands to visit Safeway, Fred Meyer, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and New Seasons in a single day, and price out a “basket” of standard foods at each store and see what the real differences are, and if the price differences are more in people’s heads than reality.

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      • wsbob January 13, 2012 at 12:33 pm

        Winco is the real price equalizer. That store is very savvy too, about emphasizing to the customer, the savings their store offers to its customers. Prices compared to other stores are listed on the shelf tags directly below where the products are stacked.

        On the other hand, if you appreciate store ambiance…and that’s not necessarily something to just laugh off and dismiss lightly…New Seasons is a nicer shopping experience. Store is smaller, more intimate, lighting is better, veggies more beautiful.

        Trader Joes shopping experience is better than both Winco and New Seasons. It’s a small store, doesn’t have as much stuff as the other two, which is a definite appeal to some people. Extra nice staff. Really great sample thing going on every day…featured coffees and food, sometimes wine. It’s easier to shop there than the other two stores.

        If their areas can support them, people need and want different shopping options in their neighborhood. I’m out in Beaverton, and we’ve got all the above mentioned stores within a fairly small radius. New Seasons coming to the Williams/Vancouver corridor seems like a great improvement. Eventually, maybe the area will also have a Winco.

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    • sorebore January 13, 2012 at 2:58 pm

      Hit Kruger farms for produce that is sold at N.S., for 1/3 less daily. If you shop it smart you can leave Krugers with a 40# sack of produce for 18-20 bucks. No where near possible at N.S. There are other sources for 3 state produce besides N.S.all over town.

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  • subdued into submission January 12, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    I do not understand the constant claim by so many on this topic that they can not afford to shop at NS. I purchase my family’s groceries weekly at the Hawthorne NS, walking past a QFC as well as a Freddies … because the quality of the food is FAR superior and the cost is actually less. Before the Hawthorne store opened I cycled to 7 Corners. I can’t claim to have compared prices in the neighborhood this article is discussing, but in my neighborhood (Tabor/Sunnyside) New Seasons not only offers the best quality and the best value, but often the best price.

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  • captainkarma January 12, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    Glad you bought it up. Everything I wanted last night to make a simple nutritious meal was overpriced by 25% to 50%. I have walked out before, on principle, and almost did last night again. This is a BS store for boojie folks to make them feel elite. This store will fail, or the neighborhood will get expensive. Can’t be any other way.

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    • Roma January 13, 2012 at 12:00 pm

      Then don’t shop there. Personally, I love New Seasons and can’t imagine shopping anywhere else (and I’ve tried). Just because you don’t want to shop there doesn’t make their customers “fools”. I don’t feel elite at all when I shop there, I feel like I’m paying for quality groceries and friendly staff. Are you also against co-ops? Because their prices will also exceed your local WinCo.

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    • spare_wheel January 13, 2012 at 3:30 pm

      “This is a BS store for boojie folks to make them feel elite.”

      and smug about the greenwashing.

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  • Roma January 13, 2012 at 11:48 am

    “When they moved into the Hawthorne area in southeast Portland, Sedlar shared, initial plans called for a ramp to rooftop parking on SE 41st Avenue. However, after neighbors told them that street sees a lot of bike traffic, they changed the plans and put the ramp on SE 41st.”

    I’m guessing one of those 41st should be a 40th…

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  • ac January 13, 2012 at 11:49 am

    when businesses move in, neighborhood values always go up

    watch for when they start leaving

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  • GlowBoy January 13, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Great job Jonathan for mentioning cargo bike parking. At the Division New Seasons near our home, it can sometimes be tricky for us to park our Madsen or a bike+trailer, and Hawthorne would definitely be worse. Gear lockers seem over the top (I don’t mind carrying my stuff around the store or putting it in a cart) but I won’t complain about them either.

    Speaking of complaining … sheesh people, if you don’t like NSM just don’t shop there, and if you don’t shop there anyway quit whining about the prices. A lot of us see a relationship between our food and our health, and make financial sacrifices elsewhere to take care of ourselves better. Yes organic produce is more expensive for instance, but I find it hard to complain since I well remember how much more expensive and lower quality it was just a few years ago.

    In particular I choose to feed my family meat and dairy that aren’t full of hormones and antibiotics, and even in this more supposedly progressive age that means buying most of it at a health food store, period. Also we have gluten intolerant people in my family … at mainstream grocery stores, gluten-free baked goods and supplies are scarce (Fred Meyer) or nonexistent (everywhere else).

    So given our values and needs, we have little choice but to shop at NSM (especially since we try to avoid even-more-expensive and crazy-right-wing Whole Foods.) Believe me, we often look at Safeway, Food4less, Winco, etc. to see if we could save money. Bottom line is we can’t get a lot of what we need at those places. We could save some money, but we’d have to go to 3-4 different stores to do our shopping. I suppose between Fred Meyer’s nutrition department and Trader Joe’s we could come pretty close, but we’d still have to go to New Seasons for a few things.

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  • kenny January 13, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    The parking spaces on the street could be allocated for covered bike corrals including ones with larger spaces capable of fitting cargo bikes and trailers.

    This will create a more welcoming store for cyclists and will decrease the chances of being ‘doored’.

    60 car parking spots is plenty.

    Food prices can be an issue. Perhaps N.S. can match food stamp purchased much like Farmer’s Markets do?

    How about a unique housing option. Create small, affordable, but well thought out housing above? 200-400 sq ft each. More density.

    We shop for specific items at N.S. I have heard the comment “you shop like a European” at the check out when I buy items. We purchase only items on sale, usually. We price shop… if we know we can get the same thing or a similar product for less at TJ’s, Safeway, or Costco … we skip it during our N.S. stops.

    I must admit, N.S. is more affordable than Whole Foods, with little exceptions. Like a commenter above, due to the politics of Whole Foods we have declined to shop there as much as possible. Also, they were not nick-named ‘Whole Paycheck” for nothing.

    The produce is usually too high for us as well at N.S., so we will go to our local fruit stand for those needs. Granted, we also grow almost half our produce on our own so produce purchases are somewhat a moot point.

    I think many folks mix up their shopping if they have time and the stores are nearby. Most of our shopping is TJ’s, not only for affordability and good quality… but it is close to our home, that is key when riding a bike the majority of the time.

    What I love the most about NS is that they carry specialty items I cannot find most places. Like the Yum Yum sauce.

    Consider moving to Woodstock. Many are interested in the area. We need another store to bike to aside from Safeway and TJ’s. Fill that niche. I actually know of a few locations that would fit the size requirements.

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