Local shop brings fresh choices to Lexington
By Julia Harrison
Albermarle High School
Three sisters sit outside Healthy Foods Co-Op & Café, awaiting their organic, vegetarian dishes. The hustle and bustle of customers picking out fresh produce is complemented by the chatter of herbivores that sit in the back of the store at the Counter Culture Café, dining on hummus wraps and coconut butternut squash curry.
The door creaks as it’s opened, and a bell alerts the 50-something, bespectacled and short-haired woman at the counter that a customer has arrived. Toria Brown, an 8-year employee of Healthy Foods describes the scene as “old-timey” and “unique.”
“We’re not all slick and we’re not all about big signs and music in your face.” She’s certainly correct—the sign outside is small and quaint, the white and green paint on it chipping at the edges. The old coolers buzz and the even older floors creak, all of it presenting an antique general-store feeling that captures the vibes of Lexington seamlessly.
The hustle and bustle of customers picking out fresh produce is complemented by the chatter of herbivores that sit in the back of the store at the Counter Culture Café, dining on hummus wraps and coconut butternut squash curry .
For 40 years, Healthy Foods has been providing Lexington with organic options and the fresh produce of Lexington’s farmers. Brown tells the story of how Healthy Foods got its start as if it was a nursery rhyme, firing it off with almost no hesitation. What began as a buyer’s club in the Snakefoot loop of Lexington between a few women in need of flour and rice, quickly escalated to a co-op with several members, all contributing their crops to Healthy Foods. They opened a shop in downtown Lexington which Brown calls “a quiet little store doing the best we can.”
That seems to be cutting it, judging from the amount of traffic and the variety of foods the store displayed. From multi- colored apples to bags of spring mix to every kind of bean, the store has barrel after barrel of whole foods. Soups and jams native to Lexington’s agricultural benefactors line the shelves. “It’s kind of a niche-y store—you don’t come here for your classic chips and milk,” Brown said.
With so much support from the farmers and manufacturers of the community, Healthy Foods returns the favor with donations to Lexington’s food bank.
While Brown admits the impact of the store on the community is small, it still is worth something. “We carry such a variety of fresh foods. Tourists come in, VMI professors come in, students come in with their families to supports us because we’ve got good quality stuff here.”