Riley Kinnard and her family once joked about opening up a full-service health food store in the former location of Premiere Video, 284 E. State St., but in a few short weeks, that joke will become a reality.
In May 2018, construction of Kindred Market began, and soon it will open for business. The family-owned business will offer a variety of products and services, focusing on natural and organic products, a grab-and-go style café and an array of bulk foods and other products.
Kinnard has always been interested in natural and healthy nutrition, but the idea of opening up an all-natural and organic grocery store herself came about after working at a natural foods co-op in Southern California.
“Everybody that shopped there and worked there held a positive vibe about what we were selling. Everybody wanted to share ideas,” Kinnard, the general manager of Kindred Market, said. “It made for such a lovely community atmosphere. I’ve always regarded Athens to be very similar to that vibe.”
When Kinnard moved back to Athens a few years later, she believed Athens could support a health food store that was larger and more full-service.
“I sort of wondered why we didn’t have something like that already,” Kinnard said. “It just seemed right up Athens’ alley.”
Kinnard is hoping to stock the market’s produce, dairy and meat coolers with a variety of foods from local vendors and businesses.
“We want to really focus on working with local vendors and local businesses to carry products to help those growers, cottage industry folks, bolster their businesses and local economy,” Kinnard said. “I know once we open, that’s going to be the main focus.”
The market will also have an extensive bulk section that will include coffee, teas, herbs and cleaning supplies. They’ll also carry bulk liquids like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and maple syrup, as well as bulk health and beauty products, so people can come and refill products like lotion.
“We’re trying to minimize packaging and be as zero-waste as possible,” Kinnard said. “The zero-waste life is gaining more ground, and people are gravitating toward that.”
Another distinctive feature of the market will be the grab-and-go style café that will serve fresh soups, salads and sandwiches every day. There will also be a growler filler in the café, specifically for selling local beers on tap. On top of that, there will be four taps with different selections of kombucha.
With a heavy focus on natural and organic products, which tend to be more expensive than non-organic products, it’s important to Kinnard and her family to make their products as affordable as possible.
“We’re just going to try to be very smart buyers, to try and work with brokers and reps and distributors to qualify for volume discounts,” Kinnard said.
The Kinnards are members of the Independent Natural Food Retail Association (INFRA), a national nonprofit that helps independent natural food stores. Kindred Market qualifies for INFRA’s buying prices, which Kinnard hopes will keep the market’s prices affordable and competitive.
Kinnard hopes the market will benefit Athens by giving residents access to a lot of interesting specialty and organic products that they may not be able to get locally.
“There are a lot of people in this community that travel to Columbus to go to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods on a regular basis,” Kinnard said. “We want to carry those things here to prevent people from having to travel so far, making Athens a more attractive place to live and be.”
In addition to making it more convenient for Athens residents to access healthier foods, she plans on immersing Kindred Market in a town she and its people love.
“We intend to be really involved in community efforts for local nonprofits and any sort of fundraising for local and humanitarian efforts,” Kinnard said. “We intend to be involved as much as we can because we want to give back.”
Emma Maddocks, a junior studying applied nutrition, recognizes Athens to be a food desert. She believes that by adding another grocery store and supporting local businesses, the local economy will improve.
Maddock herself prefers locally-grown products because she knows where they are coming from. She hopes Kindred Market will continue to add to the character of Athens that many cherish.
“You know that a neighbor produced them and that they were produced with care,” Maddocks said. “Locally grown products are better for the environment too, because the fuel that it takes to ship them is far less coming from one side of Athens to the other, versus coming from California to Athens. I am very excited to check out Kindred Market for these reasons.”
Kaitlyn Cummings, a freshman studying communication studies, would also consider checking out Kindred Market to see how the store’s offerings may differ from other local grocers.
“Buying local foods is important because of the environmental impacts of food production here in the U.S.,” Cummings said. “If I have the ability to buy local, I will because the environmental footprint is much smaller.”