JOLIET – Fresh Thyme Farmers Market opened Wednesday to the delight of natural food enthusiasts and vegetarians.
You don't have to be a vegetarian to shop at Fresh Thyme Markets. The meat counter featured 20 varieties of sausages, including Chicago Sweet Italian, and the store had eight butchers on staff for the grand opening.
But rows of organic fruits and vegetables, including white onions displayed with a sign advising "Rich in Disease-Prevention Antioxidants," show the store is aiming at a health-conscious market.
Store customers made comparisons to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, neither of which are nearby.
"I am thrilled that we have something like this in our area now," said Allison Flood of Lockport. "I've been driving all over the place to go to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods."
Fresh Thyme Farmers Market is at 2700 Plainfield Road in the Louis Joliet Pointe shopping center, located outside the Louis Joliet Mall. The nearest Trader Joe's and Whole Foods stores are in Orland Park and Naperville.
Brian Duffy of Plainfield said the timing of Fresh Thyme's opening was ideal, since just three weeks ago he went on a meatless diet for health reasons.
"I am literally five minutes from here," Duffy said. "They have everything I could think of."
Unique features included a make-your-own peanut butter machine. The store has a large amount of ready-to-eat and take-out items, including custom-made pizza and sandwiches. It also has an olive and antipasti bar, along with a salad bar. Fruits and vegetables are stacked neatly by hand.
Fresh Thyme Markets has most of the departments found in a supermarket. The brand names are much different, although some familiar items are there, including Glad ClingWrap, Clorox bleach and even Old Style beer.
But the Clorox beach is about the only big-brand found in shelves of laundry soaps advertising themselves as environmentally friendly.
Store Director Keith Plyer noted that while the frozen waffle selection does not include the Eggo brand, it does include Nature's Path and Van's, big names in the natural food business.
"I think the community of Joliet has been dying for something like this," said Plyer, a lifelong resident of the city who has been in the grocery business for 30 years.
Plyer said he arrived at the store at 5 a.m. to find the parking lot full and people lined up outside the doors. The crowd was prompted by a promotion giving away $50 worth of groceries to each of the first 250 store customers when doors opened at 7 a.m.
Plyer said some people showed up as early as 3 a.m.
Fresh Thyme Markets is a young company created in October 2012. The corporate office just two weeks ago moved to Downers Grove.
The company has 16 stores in the Midwest, with five in Illinois. Eleven stores are slated to open this year, including locations in Naperville and Crystal Lake. The company plans to open 25 stores next year.