In the two years since the closure of big box retailer Kmart’s Second Street South location, three businesses have came to take over its old location in Waite Park. Late in 2016 sporting goods retailer Dicks as well as discount retailer Five Below opened their doors. Now grocery store Fresh Thyme joins them after their recent opening.
Customers stood in line outside before 7 a.m. on the morning of January 25th for the store’s grand opening celebration. Many were enticed by the promise of a free bag of groceries for the first 250 customers to make a purchase.
Since their grand opening, Fresh Thyme has became a popular destination for families and those looking for a healthy alternative to the pesticide grown fruits and vegetables of a conventional grocery store. Fresh Thyme’s mission is to provide customers with organic food at an affordable price while also providing a unique grocery store experience that the company describes as a “vibrant and fun shopping experience”
But the nature of a new store also brings about it difficulties for parking due to the influx of customers. This problem was apparent almost immediately after pulling into the parking lot that is shared by Fresh Thyme, Dicks and Five Below. With all stores being relatively busy, I was forced to park in a row that aligned with Dicks and even then I was far from the entrance. It does not help to know the driveway for the parking lot is in a location which forces you to drive in front of the three stores and thus be frequently stopped by foot traffic.
Once inside upon stepping onto the brown floor I quickly learned why Fresh Thyme was so busy. The first thing to draw my eye was the “farmer’s market” style layout of the fresh fruits and vegetables in the center of the store. To my left were cash registers, and further behind lied a row of tall isles frequently seen at a standard grocery store. On the wall around the perimeter lied rows of gleaming refrigerators containing cold products. To make this section really special was the freshly squeezed bottled juice. It truly is freshly squeezed, right at the store and made of their fresh ingredients. Plus for those with specific dietary restrictions or conscious health choices, all items without gluten were very labeled as so to help make buying decisions easier.
However it was the meat and deli section which really set Fresh Thyme apart from other grocery stores in Saint Cloud. The section contained so much more than the traditional freshly sliced assortment of meat. A handful of employees wearing the signature Fresh Thyme green shirt and hat worked the counter taking orders in what was in a way, a take out restaurant. The store serves not only its own hot or cold sandwiches, but more impressively hand made pizzas using their very own ingredients. Considering I was visiting during the dinner hour, I was not surprised to see a line of customers waiting in line for pizzas. And with 3 toppings on your 16 inch pizza for $10, the price seemed like a good value too. But the selection of practical pack yourself meals did not stop there. The store also features a buffet style line where customers can assemble their own salad for purchase, and another entire line dedicated to “olives and antipasto”. For those who like to make their own coffee, a variety of organic and nonorganic grounds could be bought from dispensers and bagged to take home.
These days, healthy food no longer comes at the cost of taste. While the store has not even been open a week, customers did not seem shy to trying new healthy alternatives or quickly return to buy more of something they recently discovered they enjoyed. This happened to me with the chocolate chip cookies. Yes, even a store centered around healthy foods can produce quality cookies at their bakery. After picking up more cookies, I tried the strawberries which tasted better than those sold at local competitors, particularly at this time of the year when strawberries are out of their prime growing season. The cereal options were also recommended to me. While we were not able to try all of the food at Fresh Thymes in just one day, those interested in sampling the store for substitutes to products they already buy at a traditional grocery store should give things a try. They may also find prices on some items to actually be lower, not to mention on Wednesdays when the stores existing promotional ad prices overlap with the first day of the new ad prices (All ads run Wednesday to Wednesday). This effectively means Wednesday’s have twice as many sales as any other day of the week and thus create the best value day to shop.
Lastly the final thing which really hits home at Fresh Thymes goals is the company’s collection of recipes on their website. Nearly 200 recipes sorted by dish are available for free use on the company’s website (freshthyme.com/recipes) and really help encourage families to make a change and try new foods.
If you want to take home a fresh meal or buy the ingredients to make a more sophisticated dish yourself, Fresh Thyme is without a doubt your first stop. It excites me to see the Saint Cloud community giving organic foods a chance. Hopefully this changes many Saint Cloud residents minds now that healthy options are not restricted to a back corner of a grocery store and labeled with a steeper price than their fertilized alternatives. Fresh Thyme may be the start of a cultural revolution on what we eat, and it’s a revolution that tastes so good it’s worth being on board with.