Healthy Living – Just a Name or The Real Thing?

Healthy Living Market

It won’t replace the local Farmers Markets. It isn’t designed to do that, but the new Healthy Living Market and Cafe at the Wilton Mall (yes, it is in a mall) just outside of Saratoga Springs, New York should make a very nice complement to the weekly local markets. Opened one week ago, the focus of this market is food that is meant to embody the Slow Food slogan of “good, clean and fair.” The owners of the market don’t explicitly state that, but that is the implication of their promise to bring healthful, good food to their market.

Healthy Living Market

Healthy Living Market  was founded in 1986 in South Burlington, Vermont by Katy Lesser. That store has grown from a small health food store into a 35,000 foot natural and organic foods supermarket. The new one in Saratoga matches that and has been designed with great flow and easy visibility.

Fellow blogger, Daniel Berman of Fussy Little Blog exploring the cheese selection.

Fellow blogger, Daniel Berman of Fussy Little Blog exploring the cheese selection.

They have an emphasis on local and regional products when available and of appropriate quality. This is readily apparent in their impressive cheese case, which is loaded with many of the finest cheeses of northeastern New York and Vermont as well as selections from around the country and Europe. The focus here at the moment is more on Vermont than the immediate area, but that (hopefully) just reflects their history as a Vermont store. On display are a number of Vermont favorites from the likes of Jasper Hill, Consider Bardwell (in our area) and others. I expect more local artisanal cheeses will become available as relationships get established. In the meantime, the quality of the cheeses that I tried, including Simply Sheep from Nettle Meadow in nearby Warrensburg, NY, have been exceptional. Hopefully, the demand will be such that their inventory will continually refresh and the cheeses will remain well affinaged.

A whole hog awaiting butchering

A whole hog awaiting butchering

Their meat case also features plenty of regional product, although nothing from the local farms that I am personally familiar with. They are purchasing whole or half animals from nearby farms and affording whole animal, nose to tail butchery. It would be a major coup to source quality, locally raised offal, but the market for that has yet to be demonstrated and I did not see any organ meat actually displayed. I would love to be able to easily buy cuts like sweetbreads, trotters, heart and more.

Healthy Living Market

In addition to the fresh meat case, there is a nice selection of sausages from regional, national and international producers, including Jamon Iberico from Fermin and dried sausages from NYC’s Salumeria Biellese amongst other producers.

Healthy Living Market

They do not have a service seafood department in their Vermont store, but they do in Saratoga. This is a new venture for them and they say that they are partnering with Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch to assure sustainability in their seafood. On their first day, the display case did not hold much besides several choices of farmed salmon, some beautiful dry scallops and wild shrimp. They were not fully prepared to discuss the specific sourcing of the farmed salmon at the time, but this is something I plan to follow. Farmed salmon, shrimp and other fish have a deservedly poor reputation on both environmental and nutritional bases, but not all aquaculture practices or fisheries should be lumped in with the bad. There are good sustainable aquaculture fisheries including those for salmon, shrimp and other fisheries and for shellfish, that has become the best and most sustainable way of sourcing. I expect that the sourcing at this store will hold up to the best standards, but I would like to see more direct evidence here before I fully endorse it.

Healthy Living Market

The fresh vegetable displays looked lovely too, though I have not yet inspected it closely as I wasn’t in need of any fresh vegetables at the time.

Healthy Living Market

The management of Healthy Living is justifiably proud of their bulk section. It is extensive with nice looking product. It shines most brightly in the spice area, though, as they carry some unusual spices and blends.

Kambucha taps

Kambucha taps

You won’t find Coke, Pepsi or any other huge conglomerate here, but you will find a lot of interesting niche products, including the widest selection of kambuchas that I have seen in any store including kambuchas from Vermont on tap. Other fermented products like kim chees, etc. are also well represented.

Healthy Living Market

I was also pleased to find that not only do they carry my favorite ice cream brand, Jeni’s, they offer a very nice selection. In stock when I was there was the always amazing Salted Caramel and a new favorite, Bangkok Peanut amongst others. Jeni’s isn’t cheap, though. Other quality brands also line the shelves including a few local brands like Battenkill valley Creamery.

Healthy Living Market

Opening day was very hectic in the store. They drew a much larger crowd than expected. This resulted in a few snags and blips, including unusually long and slow checkouts. Nevertheless, most people seemed willing to tolerate this, understanding that some kinks would inevitably need to be worked out. One woman, though, approached me as I was photographing some of the items on the Market’s shelves. She said, “I hope that you are photographing the prices too! It doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be so expensive!” I didn’t get into a discussion with her, but perhaps I should have. It is true that they carry  many expensive items. This is not a typical supermarket and many of the items they carry don’t hide their costs or pass them on indirectly like many mainstream products do. Supermarket meat is generally cheaper for a reason. Many corners get cut trying to keep the feedlot costs down. We all pay the price for the conditions that require widespread antibiotic use, hormonal supplements and environmental pollution, let alone the ethical issues involved in factory farming. Sure chicken, pork and beef at supermarkets or fast food joints may be cheap in the immediate sense, but we pay in terms of increased taxes to clean up environmental waste and increased health care costs when there are widespread food-related illnesses or more insidious problems that are more difficult to identify. Yet, as more people are able to purchase quality alternatives, prices should decline and they should become more widely affordable. That said, I was impressed that the Healthy Living Market doesn’t just cater to the high end. They offer quality products at more affordable prices too.

Healthy Living Market

Time will tell how well the Healthy Living Market walks the walk, but at this point I am excited by the talk that they talk.


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3 Responses to Healthy Living – Just a Name or The Real Thing?

  1. Kim says:

    Amen and amen.

  2. suzanne says:

    While I have not made it to HLM yet, I think part of the issue of local foods being or not being carried is the lack there of. When HLM opened many years ago in Burlington it was not as large and expanded only as the local farmers began to realize they could sell to them–that there was a market that justified an increase in production. Upstate NY is not there yet. It is made up of mostly small artisianal farmers. Farmers will respond when they see this market thrive and that it can be a legitimate business partner. Farmers are skeptics as a whole, but I think many will start to increase production to meet HLM demands. That is, if HLM, can pay them enough to make it profitable for them….

    People always complain about pricing. If the complainers had an idea how hard it is to farm or knew where and how the “cheaper” foods, especially meats, came from, it might change their minds completely. Europeans pay significantly more of their income for food. (It is hard to hide lurid stock yards in their crowded environment). Now that food is more globally produced,even there, they are learning that cheap meat is not so good (ie horse meat with drugs found in their beef burgers). Education is key to the complainers.

    Wish I lived closer to Wilton to justify the car ride to the HLM. Next time I am up that way I will be there!

    • docsconz says:

      Excellent points, Suzanne. Thanks for commenting. This has the potential to be a very nice complement to farmers markets. The big advantage they have is the ability to get to know the farmers on a more personal and direct level.

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