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Sprouts features health, local vendors at opening
Lead casher Jeremy Fowler cheers as the first shoppers pour into the new Cumming Sprouts store minutes after 7 a.m. Wednesday. - photo by Jim Dean

CUMMING — More than just Forsyth County residents are flocking to the new grocery store in Cumming, perusing the aisles of healthy products, tasting local vendors’ samples and exploring the talk of the town.

Sprouts Farmers Market opened its doors for the first time Tuesday for a preview party before its grand opening Wednesday morning.

In its fifth location in Georgia and first this year, the Arizona-based fresh concept grocer filled out the Lakeland Plaza space that formerly housed Stein Mart.

“We truly believe in healthy living for less,” said Caitlin Watts, regional marketing coordinator for the brand, “that you don’t have to be wealthy to be healthy.”

She said the main competitor is still “conventional grocers” but that Sprouts usually can beat them, citing a 2-cent difference this week in the price per pound for organic bananas.

And their stock is not just bananas.

At least 85 percent of the products on the store’s shelves are natural or organic, more than 2,000 of which are gluten free, Watts said.

An estimated 1,200 people showed up to see what the hype was about Tuesday.

Nikki Gibbons of west Forsyth said she found out about the opening through a friend. As she waited in the checkout line, she had about 10 items in her cart, most of which were produce-related.

“The fruits and veggies seem really good and inexpensive. And they have all these exotic products I haven’t seen before,” she said, holding up a tub of artichoke-flavored dip and dried fruit sticks.

Sprouts seems to have caught on to the speeding bandwagon that people don’t simply want fresh, organic produce — they want to buy from small farmers and local vendors.

“We always try to buy local,” said Rich Lovejoy, who lives in west Forsyth. “If we don’t support them and buy the stuff they grow, they won’t grow it eventually.”

He said he also liked the fact that while organic is healthy and trending, shoppers have the option to not buy organic.

One local vendor had its booth packed with shoppers wanting to taste its honey spread products.

Weeks Honey Farm, a family-owned business in south Georgia, started making honey in the 1960s. Four generations later, Sprouts contacted daughter-in-law Sonja Crosby to put their jars on the shelves.

Another booth featured Pure Bliss Organics. The Marietta-based company sells small-batch, organic, handmade dried fruit and nut products.

“It’s so sustainable, there’s nothing bad about it,” said employee Pete Maxwell of both the product and stores like Sprouts that promote local vendors. “It’s the way of the future.”