For four decades, Sunflower Natural Foods Market in Woodstock has had a reputation for quality, variety, and down-to-earth customer service. This fall, foodies and lovers of all things natural and organic are rejoicing as the store unveils an expansion that will offer shoppers more varieties of everything they love.
The produce, dairy, and grocery departments will be 50 percent bigger, freezer space will double, and a full-service kitchen will allow for more grab-n-go options.
“We want to be the place where people can come and pick up a healthy, delicious, prepared plate at a reasonable price.”
Back in 1977, Bob Whitcomb set himself a challenge: “I was living in town and I wasn’t really satisfied with my job or my living situation, so I decided I’d either get into a better situation or leave town.
I gave myself two years. Four months later I had the store open, and six months later I bought a house. I guess I’m staying.”
This fall, foodies and lovers of all things natural and organic are rejoicing as the store unveils an expansion that will offer shoppers more varieties of everything they love.
He’d worked in grocery retail, and was drawn to natural and health foods and the people who favored them. It turned out to be the right thing in the right place at the right time, and with “grace, goodwill, and community support,” as Bob puts it, the business grew, doubling in size by 1990.
Later in the 90s, the ownership team doubled in size: Roz Balkin, a noted jewelry designer with a staff of 18 and a teenage daughter, joined forces with Bob, bringing her designer’s eye to the store’s aesthetic.
“I knew the store, and I’ve always been an environmentalist, so I was on the same page,” she says. “And it’s been more than just a ride, it’s been a trip, full of good food and good people.
We’re so lucky in our location; being close to New York City means we get a lot of knowledgeable feedback, and Woodstock has a lot of people who like to cook vegan and vegetarian. The town is so receptive. And now the younger generation has stepped up.”
“With the expansion, our holistic vision for the Woodstock store will come to fruition: engagement with both our local vendors and our customers that produces a shared experience and appreciation for healthy living.”
Her daughter and son-in-law, Paku and Melissa Misra, had been working in other fields and had a child of their own, so Bob and Roz weren’t sure if they’d be interested in joining the family business. But when the subject of partnership was raised, “we realized it was probably the best chance we’d ever have to do something big and wonderful for our own daughter,” says Paku.
I’ve found it a comfortable, satisfying life and we wanted to share that with them,” says Bob. “It’s been great working alongside them. At this point, they’ve taken over most of the operations, and it’s great to see them enjoying it, working hard, and taking it to the next level.” Paku and Melissa brought skills in marketing, media, and technology to the business. “Bob had the foresight to have point-of-sale technology, and we showed them how to really get their money’s worth from it,” says Paku. They also had the vision to expand in 2014 by opening up a location in Rhinebeck, which has been equally well-received by the Dutchess County community.
The whole team is excited about welcoming customers to the biggest, best Sunflower yet, with loads more produce, bulk foods, groceries, meat, and seafood—all of it organic or all-natural, and none of it GMO. You’ll also find a comprehensive selection of supplements, homeopathic remedies, and handcrafted gifts. There will be expanded to-go offerings and treats at the new coffee and juice bar, which will have indoor and outdoor seating. “We want to be the place where people can come and pick up a healthy, delicious, prepared plate at a reasonable price,” says Bob. “We’ve had several chefs reach out, but we want to see what we can do ourselves. We have ideas we want to try out.”
The whole team is excited about welcoming customers to the biggest, best Sunflower yet, with loads more produce, bulk foods, groceries, meat, and seafood—all of it organic or all-natural, and none of it GMO.
“With the expansion, our holistic vision for the Woodstock store will come to fruition: engagement with both our local vendors and our customers that produces a shared experience and appreciation for healthy living,” says Melissa, whose special forte is community engagement.
“We’re creating a dynamic platform on which to offer more educational programs and hands-on learning experiences that center around good health and wellness habits. Some things will be developing as we go along. Our customers guide us with their feedback, and we’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support.”
One thing will never change: the team’s commitment of bringing to the community they love the store that it deserves. “It just seemed to me way back then that a store like this, where people could find the best organic food, would be a good thing for this community,” says Bob. “Since the beginning, it’s been about getting better and better, every day and every week.”
Stop by either location any day of the week to pick up some groceries or enjoy something from the cafe & juice bars.
75 Mill Hill Road, Woodstock | 845-679-5361
24 Garden Street, Rhinebeck | 845-876-2555