“Customers really appreciate
that we’ve read the labels.”
Photography by Angela Aurelio
Edible Monterey Bay readers have voted New Leaf Community Markets their 2016 Best Food Purveyor. It’s the fourth time that New Leaf has won EMB’s Local Hero award over the last five years, but this time is especially significant for New Leaf, since shoppers have now had time to evaluate the sale of the beloved Santa Cruz-born natural food chain to Portland’s New Seasons Market in late 2013.
“It’s very important that our customers feel we are still providing them with the food that they’re accustomed to,” says co-founder Kimberly Hallinan, who has been supervising the Northern California stores since Scott Roseman and Rex Stewart retired just over a year ago.
Loyal New Leaf fans still feel it’s a community market because of its emphasis on high quality local produce and vendors, and the strict vetting of any food before it is allowed on the store’s shelves. The grocer was also the first in California to be named a Certified B Corporation— meaning it upholds stringent social and environmental standards.
“There are really no other stores that have our product standards, not Whole Foods, not Sprouts. That’s what really sets us apart,” she claims. “I think our customers really appreciate that we’ve read the labels and that there are ingredients and products we won’t sell.”
When Scott Roseman launched New Leaf 30 years ago, he brought in Hallinan as the financial manager and as the buyer of dairy products, bread and frozen foods. There were about 25 employees at the beginning, and she recalls, “It was funky. The building was funky. It was very raw and rough around the edges. Every day we were reinventing the wheel.”
Today New Leaf employs 650 people in California with five markets in Santa Cruz County, one in Half Moon Bay, one in Pleasanton and one in San Jose—which is branded as a New Seasons Market. For Hallinan, the past year has been a challenge. “It’s been daunting in a way because Scott Roseman, Rex Stewart and I were what I like to think of as a three-legged stool.
“We are all very opinionated, intelligent, articulate people so it wasn’t always smooth sailing, but our ability to lead as part of a threelegged stool was part of our success,” she says.
The past year has included a major remodel of the kitchen and meat department at New Leaf’s Capitola store, and Hallinan began bringing in some of New Seasons’ renowned customer service ideas and practices. In other ways, not much has changed. For example, an idea to save money by switching from chef’s coats to New Seasons-style aprons in the deli department was rejected because New Leaf management believes that simple details like that project their brand.
This year promises to be one of consolidation to get ready for a giant growth spurt projected for New Leaf in 2017, when the company plans to open new markets in Aptos, Emeryville and Sunnyvale. It is still looking for a suitable location for a long-awaited New Leaf in the Monterey/ Carmel area.
“It’s one thing to open a new store every year and a half or two, and it’s another thing when you are opening more than one a year,” she says. For now, management is looking at how to add lots of new employees while maintaining the New Leaf culture and how to become a true “community market” in new places that are not so familiar with the 30- year-old Santa Cruz tradition.
Runners up: 2nd place, Star Market and 3rd place, Staff of Life Deborah Luhrman is deputy editor of Edible Monterey Bay and editor of the EMB weekly newsletter. A lifelong journalist, she has reported from around the globe, but now prefers covering our flourishing local food scene and growing her own vegetables in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
New Leaf Community Markets
Deborah Luhrman is publisher and editor of Edible Monterey Bay. A lifelong journalist, she has reported from around the globe, but now prefers covering our flourishing local food scene and growing her own vegetables in the Santa Cruz Mountains.