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Creating Community

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— May 9, 2017

Creating Community

  • In 1989, when the Najjars opened Cream of the Crop, it was one of the first natural food stores in Oceanside. They started with a grocery store, which they converted to a health food store.
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“We’re a neighborhood store,” says Diana Najjar, co-owner, with her husband Harry, of Cream of the Crop, a natural food market in Oceanside, California. “We know many of our customers by name, and we keep our employees because we’re not corporate.” The store is located a few blocks from the beach, perfect placement for a clientele of swimmers, surfers, runners, and hikers.

Besides its regular customers, the store serves “people who move away and come back here to visit and shop in the store,” Harry Najjar says. “A lot of people are around on vacation, and then they come back next summer.” What do the different customer bases have in common? they tend to be “on a mission to be very healthy. We get older people too, and they rarely look their age. they’re not smoking, not eating from the drive-through window.” Fitness is as important for the owners as it is for their customers. Harry works out seven days a week, alternating among hot yoga, trips to the gym, golf and swimming, which keeps his lower back in shape. His philosophy of health is simple: “Your body is a temple. You are what you eat. Put natural foods, clean foods, in your body, and you will stay healthy.”

In 1989, when the Najjars opened Cream of the Crop, it was one of the first natural food stores in Oceanside. They started with a grocery store, which they converted to a health food store. “In the eighties, people didn’t know what ‘organic’ meant, and the neighborhood wasn’t ready for us yet,” said Diana. They went back to selling conventional groceries, this time bringing in the health food more slowly. Today the store is booming, as people buy up the most affordable beach property remaining first natural food stores in Oceanside. they started with a grocery store, which they converted to a health food store. “In the eighties, people didn’t know what ‘organic’ meant, and the neighborhood wasn’t ready for us yet,” said Diana. they went back to selling conventional groceries, this time bringing in the health food more slowly. Today the store is booming, as people buy up the most affordable beach property remaining in southern California.

The Najjars’ daughter and son grew up in the store, where the principles of healthy eating rubbed off on the kids. “they are very healthy,” said Harry. “they’re both vegans, although we are not. Our daughter runs a vegan website.” The couple pride themselves on imparting a level of information that mass merchandisers cannot. “At chain stores, people buy a few things because they’re thinking of getting healthy,” Harry says. “Here we educate people as they come in and tell them what’s good. If they want to be gluten-free, we try to help them.” When customers ask for supplements to support overall health, the Najjars “start with a good multivitamin,” Harry says. “Also a good aloe and a green supplement, which is excellent all around. And then maca root, a Peruvian root that’s good for hormones, brain function, concentration, and endurance.” The 3000-square-foot store has an extensive supplement section, competitively priced, with discounts for seniors and for purchases of more than $50. A full complement of natural foods emphasizes no-sugar or low-sugar content and an abundance of organic and non-GMO products.

The store includes a deli with a juice bar, a convenience for beach-goers who want to grab some drinks and sandwiches. “We carry a lot of local products,” said Harry. “A lady came in today from the next town over with her pasture-raised chickens and eggs.” Despite the competitive health food landscape—with online shopping and chains like Costco and Trader Joe’s stocking organic sections as they seek a piece of the natural food pie—Cream of the Crop is looking for a bigger location. “Our customers want to be here, and we want them to be here,” said Harry. “It’s a love thing”.

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