Rick Littlefield had been looking for a permanent home for his store for five years when a space finally opened up last summer. Three times the size of the old location, Littlefield liked the high ceilings and the building's location, - near three other grocery stores on U.S. Highway 101- was perfect. An expanded health foods store would fit right in.
"There's a term in the construction business if you remodel an old business," he said. "It's called putting lipstick on a pig. But we think we did better than that."
Littlefield and his employees tore the interior of Crescent Lumber down to the studs, turning a spot with four units into one massive space. He then moved the merchandise from his old health foods store, Harvest Natural Foods, into the new space, adding new merchandise and departments. The result, Wild Rivers Market, opened at 450 M St. on Jan. 16. It will celebrate its grand opening and ribbon cutting with free samples, a bicycle raffle and other raffle prizes on Friday.
Littlefield, who also owns Eureka Natural Foods, took over Crescent City Health Foods in 1986 and changed its name to Crescent Health Foods. Located in the Y Shopping Center, it had been in danger of being closed, Littlefield said, before he took over the lease.
In 1992, Littlefield bought the building that had housed G and G Liquors at 265 L St. and reopened Crescent Health Foods as Harvest Natural Foods. Downtown Crescent City was bustling back then, he said. Littlefield's employees remodeled the building, cleaned the apartments on the second floor and installed vinyl windows.
Littlefield said he got the itch to move and expand Harvest Natural Foods about five to six years ago when he sold the building.
"We had been looking for five years to try and find our permanent home," he said. "We finally found it here in July."
Wild Rivers Market represents several firsts for a health foods store in Crescent City. The store now offers micro-brewed beers and organic wine, he said. Customers can purchase organic grass-fed beef and poultry. And Wild Rivers' bulk section is almost as large as the one in Eureka, Littlefield said.
Wild Rivers Market also offers an expanded wellness department with herbs, vitamin supplements and homeopathic remedies. It has also expanded its offering of shampoos, lotions and cosmetics, he said.
"The thing that's really nice about this for us is we've had a bunch of our folks from Eureka help in the design and the merchandising," Littlefield said. "We were able to get all that experience and then we also get the buying power out of Eureka."
Since Wild Rivers Market has opened, customers who were used to Harvest Natural Foods have been raving about the new store, said manager Tom Boylan. New customers have also ventured into the store because of the more visible location, he said.
Boylan, who has worked for Harvest Natural Foods for 10 years and was manager for nine, said he's seen the natural foods market grow over the years. Most of the market's food offerings are local, either found in Humboldt or Del Norte counties or within the Northern California-Southern Oregon region.
And although Wild Rivers Market isn't the only supermarket in town, competition is minimal, Boylan said.
"The closest real competition is Fred Meyer up in Brookings," he said, referring to the store's natural foods section, but adding that Wild Rivers Market has Brookings customers as well. "I see people all the time who live up there make a trip down here."
Pat Hill and Bryan Jeffers, Crescent City transplants from Humboldt County, were two customers who had frequented Harvest Natural Foods before it moved to its new home and assumed a new name. Browsing the market's bulk section, they said they'll definitely be regulars.
"We had the Co-op and Wildberries," Hill said, referring to Humboldt locations while looking around the new store. "There was nothing like it. This is really nice."
Lianna Lev, another customer who was near the store's freezer case Monday, said she has to eat foods that are gluten-free, so having a store like Wild Rivers Market to shop at is nice. But, she said, she'll probably spread her shopping out to find the best prices.
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org .