owners say store struggling
Grocery owner Maria Thorton-Bunkley
While the Organic
Grocery has provided Yellow Springs with wholistic foods and products
for 34 years, the stores owners, Maria Thornton-Bunkley and Ras
Shaggai, have recently struggled to keep sales up and stock their shelves.
They say they are now open to considering potential offers to purchase
the downtown business.
This past year has been harder than ever with sales being very unpredictable,
Thornton-Bunkley said. This summer was particularly challenging.
Competition is an issue business owners in any location must face. Other
grocery stores in town have gradually increased their stock of natural
foods, and larger chains near Yellow Springs, such as Krogers and
Meijer, have done the same. The increased availability of health foods
is a positive thing for the population at large, Thornton-Bunkley said,
But its killing the mom and pop stores.
Name brand whole foods that got their start in the independent health
food stores are now being sold by their distributors to mega stores with
buying power, Thornton-Bunkley said.
Krogers can sell stuff at a lower price than what I buy wholesale,
she said. People think theyre saving money, but if village
businesses go under, I think theyll realize thats not really
what they wanted.
Throughout the year the Organic Grocery has tried to focus on its strengths
and expand the services it does best. The store has doubled its juice
bar and smoothie menu and widened its selection of prepared foods. Thornton-Bunkley
and Shaggai have also offered more vegetarian and vegan catering for parties
and community events.
But the bottom line is getting shoppers to come through the door.
We need more localists, people who are willing to come here first
and spend just a dollar a day, Thornton-Bunkley said.
There are customers who are trying. Antioch College staff member Maryann
Ullmann likes supporting a small local business that sells organic food.
She and Bryan Felice, also an Antioch staff member, often come to the
O.G. for lunch to get their favorite curried tofu sandwich.
Ullmann said she usually goes to the O.G. before she shops at Toms
Market, But its so hard when you want to support the local
organic grocer but you dont have much money and you know its
a dollar cheaper across the street.
The Organic Grocery has come through many hard times in the past. When
the stores former owner Stacy Arnett bought the store in 1990, he
was open just a year before deciding he wanted out. He put the business
up for sale, but there were no good offers.
I closed up the store one night after exhausting all my [options]
and realized there was a formula to this thing, said Arnett, who
sold the business to Thornton-Bunkley and Shaggai in 2000. You dont
ever want to be seen as a competitive capitalist, but if you scrape off
the layers of every successful business here, you see they watch every
For the next 10 years the O.G. thrived by focusing on personalized service,
catering to its customers needs and specializing in supplements
and bulk foods. But it was never an easy road.
Its hard to be financially at risk from month to month and
put all your personal investment on the line, Arnett said. And
youve got to totally be doing it all the time, even when you dont
want to or youre not going to make it.
Thornton-Bunkley and Shaggai have two children and a traveling reggae
band they are both very committed to. The band, Ras Shaggai and the Unifires,
has four gigs this month, including a performance coming up at the Nite
Owl in Dayton.
The band is definitely a big part of our lives, Thornton-Bunkley
said. The O.G. has been a labor of love, but its becoming
too all consuming. I am open to making changes and talking to potential
Thornton-Bunkley and Shaggai have thought of many alternatives for the
store, including turning it into a reggae cafe or a juice bar with limited
grocery and snack items. They have considered holding an O.G. fundraiser
or a rally to help supplement flagging sales.
Thornton-Bunkley wants what is best for her family and for the community.
Id be interested in hearing what the community thought about
it, she said. The
O.G. has always been a special place for people to connect, and its
important for the whole town.