Frank and Meghan Ford acknowledge that they're an unconventional choice to open an organic market. His job, until recently, was as a photographer taking family portraits. She's a teacher-turned-librarian, who continues to work for a school district. Beyond that, they were never that into the organic world.
But with the birth of their older son, Frankie, almost four years ago, the Fords found themselves obsessing over the additives and pesticides in their food. "We didn't want our kids eating what we were eating," Fred Ford says. "I started researching food -- and then I got scared."
Learning about organic options was an eye-opener, one that became even more important with the birth of their second son, Vinnie, nine months ago. Vinnie has Down syndrome, which can make children even more susceptible to illness. "That really jumpstarted this and pushed us even more into organics," Fred Ford says. "I will do whatever I can to keep both my kids healthy."
"Whatever I can" ended up translating into St. Louis' newest organic market, Organics (5400 S. Kingsghighway), which quietly opened its doors in a standalone one-story building in the city's Princeton Heights neighborhood on June 5.
The 1,600-square-foot space was previously a plus-sized women's clothier. It's bright and uncluttered, with plenty of room for the 910 products that the Fords have on offer. That includes everything from organic apples, onions and bananas to baby food to candles to toilet paper.
"We don't have a lot of anything, but we have a little of everything," Fred explains, grinning.
Their product line also includes a huge selection of essential oils, which Meghan got into after Vinnie's birth. "These are natural ways to support our health," she says.
While the couple has dreamt of a shop for some time now, and Fred had begun researching sources for organic products, it was only recently that they made the leap of faith. But once they started the process, it moved incredibly quickly.
The family lives just three blocks from the store, which is located at South Kingshighway and Eichelberger in the Princeton Heights neighborhood. (She grew up in Arnold; he grew up in Hazelwood -- "this was our meet-in-the-middle point," Fred says.)
So when they saw the clothing shop that had been located on site, Panache Plus, was moving to Hampton and Macklind, they leapt at the opportunity. In April, they signed a lease. Just two months and a fresh coat of paint or two later, they opened their doors.
Their goals are simple: They'd like to make a wide variety of organic products available in the city.
"I've always thought it was a beautiful space," Meghan says of the building, "a great place for a market."
Fred adds, "I love Whole Foods, Local Harvest, Trader Joe's -- but I don't love driving to Brentwood!" They've been heartened by just how much foot traffic they've seen already; people in the neighborhood have been walking over to check out what's going on. The shop is both dog-friendly and stroller-friendly -- everyone, Meghan says, is welcome.
In the coming months, they hope to add even more products, and they intend to decide what to stock based on customer demand. "Our biggest goal is variety," Fred says. "We want people to be able to go grocery shopping here."
Fred has quit his photography work to devote himself to the store -- the happy byproduct is that he's home now in the evenings, traditionally a photographer's busiest time. That means more time for his kids.
And it's not only the evenings when he'll see them.
In addition to the sizable front room, Organics has a second room to the side, currently set up partly as a play room and partly with adult-sized tables and chairs. The Fords want to encourage customers to bring their kids and take advantage of the toys and games on site.
Eventually, they'll use the space for classes, or other community events. A note on the dry erase board on the wall instructs patrons, "Ask Us About Renting This Space."
"It's great for me because my family can hang out with Dad if they want to," Fred says of the space. "But I've got so many plans. In the future, we could have a cafe here with coffee and pastries. And we could hold classes in the evenings. I want to offer as much as I can in terms of free classes. Possibly even yoga!"
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