Inviting and orderly, McLean's Nourish Market is the health food lover's dream come true. It can even please those consumers who have gone green and are looking for environmentally safe products. Shelves are lined with baby products, doggy treats and shampoos, herbals and vitamins, healthful nutritional bars, organic beauty products, cereals and granolas, organic wines and beers, and for the hungry, a deli counter in the rear of the store with vegetables, prepared salads, an attendant to make sandwiches and serve customers, and perhaps best of all, free samples of sweet treats.
With the constant drumbeat of "Eat better, healthier food" in the media, consumers must be getting the message and putting healthful meals on the table -- or, at least, they plan to. And that's what Karen Sherwood, health food entrepreneur and owner of Falls Church's Kennedy's Natural Foods and McLean's new food venture, Nourish Market, is counting on.
Inspired by health issues in her own family -- she's been dealing with problems like ADHD, she said -- Sherwood tried to find foods processed without additives. In the midst of a busy life raising three young boys, she got the idea to start her own marketplace that would meet the demands of today's busy lifestyles and would also give parents and others healthier food options.
"The idea for this market came during my busy life," she said. "We were trying to eat well ... but that is hard to do when you are running around looking for 'clean' snacks."
After a trip to California, where the format for a total health food store is commonplace, Sherwood found on her return to Virginia no food outlet to franchise comparable to what she had found out West. So she decided to try out her plan for Nourish Market, at least for a year, to see how it would work.
But first, she realized she needed a facility that could provide all the baked goods and prepared dishes she wanted to sell.
"So when Kennedy's came up for sale, I thought it would be a good addition to the Nourish Market family," she said. "I did everything differently than the experts say to do. But I thought, 'No, I have to do it this way to make it work.' "
Acknowledging that building two businesses at once was a tremendous struggle, Sherwood could not have realized her market goal without the Falls Church facility. "We found the property in McLean," she said, "and signed the lease. We had an architect and got a builder. Then it all came to a halt because we found we couldn't use the facility for our purposes."
But having the kitchen at Kennedy's solved her problems: She could now cook for and deliver to Nourish Market. Her quest for providing the cleanest, chemical-free foods has meant not cooking in aluminum or storing foods in plastics, which emit toxins.
"[I] need to have a product I can stand behind," she said, "so I can know I have done something good for the community and for myself."
Finally, the market opened in June. With the help of personal friends and chef friends -- plus her staff chefs Rick Tackett and Lee Heffelfinger, who have helped construct and cook up a tantalizing menu of dishes -- Sherwood can now almost relax enough to look to the future.
And what might that hold?
"I have thought about it," she said. "I would not franchise a single store. I want each area ... to have one central kitchen facility and one bakery for allergy-free food. And each region would use resources specific to that region. I wouldn't want to warehouse in New Jersey what would be shipped to and sold in Kentucky."
By using local resources, including local talent and hiring locally, Sherwood hopes to make her brand available as far as possible. When might that be? She hints a new store opening may be in 24 months, but the location is still secret -- will it be Arlington? Bethesda? Fredericksburg?
Nourish Market, 8100 Old Dominion Drive, McLean, 703-288-3031
Nourish Market Organic Guacamole
Serves 6 to 8
8 lightly mashed fresh organic avocados
½ organic red onion, minced
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Mix all the ingredients, and adjust for salt and pepper, if necessary.
Nourish Market Free-Range Egg Salad
Serves 6 to 8
12 free-range eggs
¼ red onion, diced
2 tablespoons Boar's Head deli mustard
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup pickled sweet peppers, strained and chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Paprika to taste.
Boil the eggs for 12 minutes: begin by placing them in cold water, and wait until it boils -- then start your timer. Cool and peel the eggs.
Chop the eggs and place in a bowl together with the remaining ingredients, mix, and season with salt, pepper, and paprika.