If you’ve been on a road trip, you know the deal: You stop at a gas mart, where you’re presented with a dizzying array of gummies, sodas, and overcooked pizza slices. If you desire something mildly nutritious, options are limited–it’s either nuts or beef jerky.
That’s what inspired PR veteran Rachel Krupa to launch The Goods Mart, a healthy convenience store committed to smarter eating: Every single item is free of artificial colors, sweeteners, and flavors, and without growth hormones or disruptors. And all of the humanely raised animal proteins are nitrate-, antibiotic-, and GMO-free.
As Krupa explains, it’s like “Whole Foods and 7-Eleven had a baby.”
Situated in L.A.’s trendy Silver Lake neighborhood, The Goods Mart, which opens today, attempts to be the easy, less time-invasive alternative to grocery store shopping–albeit with a wellness twist. The newly opened store, which plans to go nationwide in the next year, targets locals looking for organic home essentials, or traffic-plagued drivers who can pick up a $2 La Colombe drip coffee.
Like a traditional ampm, there are the processed grab-and-go basics, such as cheese puffs, ramen cups, and chocolate bars–but made with some healthy ingredient like quinoa or chia seeds. Yerba mate replaces energy drinks, while the slushy machine churns out a tropical-flavored kombucha variety. Even the Paleo-friendly pork rinds feel healthier, having been seasoned with pink Himalayan salt.
Fresher produce is also available, though in the form of ugly fruit by way of L.A.’s local GrubMarket, which finds new homes for imperfectly shaped produce. The awkward-looking oranges and lemons sit in oversized weave baskets by the front door, beckoning customers like homeless puppies at the pound.
In the back, a row of bathroom basics holds toilet paper and shavers, all made from sustainable materials, or in the case of a pack of condoms–vegan, certified Fair Trade rubber. The experience feels familiar: The decor and curation blatantly mimics that of a convenience store. But save for some recognizable brands like Annie’s mac ‘n cheese, half of the selections feel like they fell through a Goop wonderland hole.
“These are from Finland,” Krupa proudly exclaims, holding up a bag of licorice bites. “And these,” she says, while pointing to a row of brightly colored chewy candy, “are basically Starburst–but organic.”
That sense of both familiarity and discovery is precisely the mix of “high and low” Krupa envisioned. The entrepreneur wants The Goods Mart to feel “cool, but approachable.” Krupa worked with a registered dietician to curate the 300 shelf items, although the boutique PR firm founder spent nearly a decade in the health and food space. Many of the store items are either personal pantry favorites or, in the case of Banana Brittle chocolate bites, recent clients.
A self-described lover of all things wellness, Krupa intends to impart her knowledge to incoming customers. The Goods Mart displays multiple iPads that clients can peruse at checkout to learn more about each brand’s mission. The staff also underwent extensive product training so they can field inquiries as to which items accommodate Angelenos’ dietary restrictions, be it Keto, gluten-free, or vegan.
“We’re looking at it from a standpoint of not being very hardcore with ‘this is how you should be eating’ or ‘these are the things that you need do,'” says the founder, stressing a more “laid-back” educational approach. Instead, Krupa wants to convey the idea that everything for sale has been vetted and thoughtfully curated. “Your child can roam around and pick anything that they want.”
The stark clean interiors with a hint of subtle, geometric graphics are intentional. “Our colors are black and white because we want the products to shine,” explains Krupa. The mart also boasts a spacious outdoor sitting patio overflowing with potted plants and six-foot trees. (In coming months, it will host product tastings and communal dinners.)
The Goods Mart will undoubtedly appeal to those in search of more nutritious options than Starbucks pastries. It’s a smart business opportunity: Nielsen reports that 30% of millennials are willing to pay a premium for healthier ingredients, while the Organic Trade Association found that 52% of organic consumers are millennials. The U.S. convenience store industry, meanwhile, experienced record in-store sales of $233 billion in 2016.
But while Whole Foods and intimidating co-ops are good for grocery shopping and juice bars for morning beverages, “the only thing that hasn’t been disrupted is the convenience store,” notes Krupa.
A More Organic Community
In discussing her impetus for starting The Goods Mart, Krupa repeatedly returns to her roots: rural Michigan. She speaks longingly of running down to her local convenience store in Pinconning (population: 1,200) to pick up paper towels and eggs while running into classmates or her dentist. More often than not, she volunteered to run the family shopping errands. For her, it was more than a chore: It was a social outing.
“It was the hub of the community,” she says.
Krupa sees plenty of technology and innovation within the food industry–noting such services as Amazon Fresh–but laments that there still isn’t an option that’s both convenient and nurtures good, old-fashioned human bonding. When, she asks, do you bump into your neighbors anymore? She sees people yearning for a break from nonstop work and screen time–a pause to pick up toothpaste and chat about weather at the corner store.
“We forget that we need a place where we can go and grab things quickly, but then also make it a place that you can see your neighbors and talk to people,” says Krupa. “That’s the bigger picture here–building a community space . . . having a good interaction.”
Krupa hopes to bring that sense of friendliness to Silver Lake, which she targeted for its walking traffic–a rarity in Los Angeles. The median age is 35, with the average household income topping $68,000, with many having the disposable income to spend on higher-priced food items.
While Krupa says she tries to keep the prices low, the mart still can’t compete with bigger chains like 7-Eleven that have decades of buying power. Not to mention, organic and healthy items–by nature of their premium ingredients–command a higher price point. Sustainability pursuits also aren’t cheap: The Goods Mart refrains from stocking plastic bottles, instead opting for more environmentally friendly glass bottles or boxed water (which retails for $1.29).
It also favors ethically sourced and socially conscious companies, such as ReGrained, a snack bar brand that upcycles leftover beer grains. “It’s also really delicious,” adds Krupa, handing me a blueberry-sunflower bar.
The Goods Mart currently serves as a test store, but Krupa plans to go nationwide in the coming year. While the Silverlake location boasts a few local items, over 80% of the inventory can be shipped across the country. Krupa is already in talks with several investors to bring the mart to metropolitan cities on both coasts, mostly to gas stations, but she isn’t ruling out airports, apartment complexes, or even college campuses. She’s even toying with taking on food deserts, starting with her home state.
“My dream would be Detroit and other markets where you don’t necessarily have access to better-for-you options, where you maybe don’t have a Whole Foods,” says Krupa. But don’t worry, she’s also still looking out for your next vacation: “We also want to pop up on long road trips, when you want to find something healthier to eat . . . We want to make it easy for you.”