Mercer Island New Seasons is officially open | Photos

New Seasons Market opened its doors to the Mercer Island community last week, promising to be a gathering place, a local partner and the “ultimate neighborhood grocery store.” The Mercer Island location is the grocer’s first outside Portland, where the company is based.

Walk in to the store from the right and you’ll find its “Solutions Counter,” where employees offer shoppers advice and usually food samples. On the left, you’ll see the “Sips” bar with plenty of seating to enjoy a meal, cup of coffee or glass of wine.

Store manager Jennie Lea said that though New Seasons is new to Mercer Island, it is not new to the concept of community.

As a Certified B Corporation, New Seasons is dedicated to sustainability and “using the power of business for good.” It commits 10 percent of after-tax profits back to the community, and will partner with local organizations such as the Mercer Island Farmers Market and the city’s Youth and Family Services department. The Mercer Island store has solar panels on its roof, electric car charging stations and an on-site composting system.

During a traditional bread breaking ceremony to celebrate the store’s opening on Nov. 10, CEO Wendy Collie said that the store’s “special sauce” is its staff. There are five generations of people working in the store, Collie said, with very diverse backgrounds.

Most of the store leadership, including Lea, came up from Portland and have been with the company for years, but New Seasons was able to hire about 110 employees from Mercer Island and the surrounding area for its new store, including a local assistant manager in training.

New Seasons’ natural wellness section is staffed with knowledgeable experts. A full-time nutritionist can help with shopping and meal planning, and offers free in-store nutrition classes.

“The knowledge of our staff really makes the experience special for customers,” Lea said.

Another point of pride for New Seasons is its “diverse and dynamic” product mix. Lea said the store offers something for everyone, giving examples of a paleo mom with a kid trying out veganism, or a home chef searching for obscure ingredients but wanting to do their shopping in one place.

Lea said the store is also responsive to customer feedback, and that shoppers can tell staff if they think New Seasons should stock a certain item. They can also ask to sample anything in the store.

According to a press release, New Seasons has “welcoming staff who love to have fun, offer recipe advice, say ‘yes’ to special requests, take sampling to a new art form and bag groceries with care, creating the reputation of ‘the friendliest store in town.’”

New Seasons also calls itself a “champion of the local food economy,” and its shelves feature many Washington products, from wine and ice cream to pestos and sauces created by a Mercer Island family. Lea said the company has very strong relationships with its vendors, from fisherman to coffee producers (New Seasons has its own Stumptown blend).

There’s regional produce (75 percent is organic), sustainably raised meats and seafood — including pasture-raised/grass-fed beef, non-GMO Project Verified chicken and pork and non-GMO grain-finished beef — and abundant grab-and-go deli options, along with staples like Oreos and macaroni and cheese.

Non-GMO project verified breads are baked fresh daily in the New Seasons organic bakery, and the store also features a range of specialty diet choices including gluten-free, Paleo, vegan, non-GMO, super foods and favorite kosher items.

The products that are non-GMO, sustainable or gluten-free are labeled as such.

Other offerings include a bountiful fair-trade and local floral section, and distinctive home goods and gifts created by local artisans. Special to the Mercer Island location is a rotisserie counter, where quick and easy meals can be created by pairing chicken with different sides.

For more, see www.newseasonsmarket.com/our-stores/mercerisland.

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