OLDSMAR – The newest Earth Fare store in the Tampa Bay area recently opened at the Woodlands Square Plaza in Oldsmar.

A large crowd of excited shoppers gathered outside Earth Fare Oldsmar’s 24,000-sq.-ft. store early in the morning on Wednesday, October 18, 2017 for the grand opening of the North Carolina based organic grocery chain’s second site in Pinellas County following a location in Seminole last October.

Earth Fare President and CEO Frank Scorpiniti said he was excited to open the company’s 43rd store in Oldsmar, a community he said strongly believes in the importance of health and wellness.

“We were aware of the availability of this location, and our studies told us it was health-focused here,” Scorpiniti said during a media event the day before the grand opening. “As we looked into the area, we realized a lot of people really wanted healthier options, and it was a vibrant community with a healthy lifestyle. We think it’s a health-focused market, and there’s an energy in this community that we’re excited about.”

Scorpiniti explained Earth Fare, which was founded in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1975, employs some of the most stringent food quality standards in the industry; their Food Philosophy states that all products sold are free of high fructose corn syrup, artificial fats and trans-fats as well as artificial colors, preservatives and sweeteners. Earth Fare also eschews bleached or bromated flour, its meats are never administered growth hormones or antibiotics, and the company recently unveiled a lineup of more than 750 private brand products that are sourced using only non-GMO ingredients, with new products being added to the shelves every day.

“We’re hunting down the healthiest, cleanest food we can get,” the CEO said, noting Earth Fare Oldsmar uses 25 locally sourced suppliers for items such as meat, dairy, poultry and seafood. “There’s absolutely no gray area. Our motto is ‘we read the labels so you don’t have to.’”

A walk through the spacious-but-not-massive store quickly reveals the extent the company goes to ensure its products are as natural, organic and healthy as possible.

Earth Fare Oldsmar offers everything from organic juices and smoothies and homemade nut butters to grass-fed meats and hundreds of gluten and GMO-free items. The health and beauty products are also organic and gluten-free, and a wellness specialist is on-site to assist customers with products that suit their needs.

In addition, Earth Fare Oldsmar sells many items in bulk, such as seeds and nuts, candies and coffee. The store also features an Heirloom Organic Juice Bar, a café, a pizza oven, a sandwich bar, meals-to-go and daily, weekly and monthly specials, all designed to make healthy shopping more affordable.

“Our goal is to make healthy eating easy and accessible to everyone,” Earth Fare spokesperson Laurie Aker said.

As Earth Fare continues a path of rapid growth – it will open 8 new stores this year after opening a total of 35 in the past 40 years – the company has recently developed a reliable method of ensuring the products on the shelves fit the people who will be shopping at the store. Earth Fare’s Community Advisory Board is comprised of a dozen or so area residents who provide input and feedback to store officials.

“Earth Fare’s creation of a Community Advisory Board is a unique and clever concept that shows they are committed to serving the needs of the community,” Paula Saracki, a board member and wife of Oldsmar Vice-Mayor Dan Saracki, said. “Who better to promote their brand than the end-users?”

Saracki said leading up to the grand opening, Earth Fare Oldsmar officials “listened to our ideas and answered our questions. The grand opening was organized, the samples were delicious, and their prices are affordable. I am excited to have Earth Fare in the neighborhood!”

Based on the number of patrons who piled into the plaza parking lot before the sun came up, Saracki isn’t the only one excited about the store’s opening, including Oldsmar’s mayor, Doug Bevis.

“I think it’s neat they came into the city and that plaza,” Mayor Bevis said after the ribbon cutting ceremony. “I think it speaks a lot for our community. I’m excited about it.”

If you go:

What: Earth Fare Oldsmar

Where: 3136 Tampa Road (Woodlands Square Plaza), Oldsmar, FL 34677

Hours: Daily, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Info: Call 813-448-9120 or visit EarthFare.com/Oldsmar