Beyond Greens and Granola

Beacon Market expands definition of healthy fare

By Alison Rooney

Many people associate health-food stores with sprouts, granola and beans in bulk. Kitty Sherpa, who co-owns Beacon Natural Market with her husband, LT Sherpa (a native, as you might expect, of Nepal) instead considers the couple’s 10-year-old operation a one-stop community market.

“We’re not huge, but not tiny either,” Kitty Sherpa said of their 4,000-square-foot space, “and we have a great depth of selection. We intended it to be a place where you could get most anything, because if you send people away for something, they may not return.”

Their stock includes organic produce, regional dairy products, organic condiments, a deli counter, all varieties of unprocessed grocery food, as well as pet food, gluten-free goods, natural cleaning products, cosmetics and vitamins, supplements and homeopathic products. There are even beeswax Chanukah candles and — if not quite healthy, at least healthier — Halloween candy.

Beacon Natural Market co-owners Kitty and LT Sherpa. (Photo by A. Rooney)

Beacon Natural Market co-owners Kitty and LT Sherpa. (Photo by A. Rooney)

The Sherpas have been in the health-food business for 25 years. A dozen years ago, while managing Village Natural Market in Bronxville, they decided to strike out on their own. They had heard about Beacon from friends, and on their first visit in 2003 found what they remember as “two shops: a good coffee house and a great boutique,” Kitty Sherpa said. “But they were the right kind of shops.”

They were aware of Dia:Beacon and something that made even more of an impression: the federal funds supporting the growth of the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries. With the bedrock of an environmentally-focused new institution, along with a strong arts community, they felt there were growth opportunities.

Beacon Natural Market has a loyal customer base, with some coming in several times a day, beginning with morning coffee, followed by lunch at one of the few window tables and then picking up items to make dinner. “We are trying to create a community store, offering a good selection of things in a very pleasant atmosphere, and people appreciate that,” she said.

Beacon Natural Market is a community gathering place as well as a place to shop.  (Photo by A. Rooney)

Beacon Natural Market is a community gathering place as well as a place to shop.  (Photo by A. Rooney)

Natural and organic foods have become less costly over the years relative to the price of everyday groceries, Kelly Sherpa said, especially after more consumers began demanding “green” products. “For example, regular cereal has become more and more expensive, because of all the advertising used to sell it,” she said. “Ours is now about the same cost, sometimes even lower.”

The market’s staples haven’t changed much over the past decade, although customers have asked for more local products. When shoppers began clamoring for kombucha tea, the Sherpas made their own and sold it from a keg. There has been increased demand for lacto-fermented food and “they love our soups and vegan dishes and we try to keep it creative,” she said. “And milk — there are a lot of milk drinkers, so we stock both Hudson Valley Fresh and Ronnybrook.” The market has expanded into catering, as well, with a menu that includes “five kinds of deviled eggs,” she noted, excitedly.

Beacon hasn’t disappointed the Sherpas. Their instinct to locate on Main Street has served them well. “We turned down spots on Route 9,” Kelly Sherpa said. “Here people walk in and stop by.” They’ve noticed not just more customers but more single people and commuters. They’re also seeing changes in the central stretch of Main.

Bath products at Beacon Natural Market (Photo by A. Rooney)

Bath products at Beacon Natural Market (Photo by A. Rooney)

“It used to be on Second Saturdays, people would walk around one end of town, get in their cars and drive to the other end, bypassing us,” she said. “Now with places like Beacon Pantry and More Good, plus some great new apartments nearby, we feel the difference. And the people moving in are our customers. It has to do with how the person wants to shop. What we can offer them is a good staff knowledge base, and just a lot less of the label-checking [for nutritional information] that goes on at a regular supermarket.

“I’m in business for this — it’s my mission to bring this to people,” continued Sherpa, who is a certified nutritionist. “I don’t want products that are GMO [genetically modified organisms]. And we’re not purists. There’s healthy junk food here, and good quality sweets. We’re trying to support the people who make these products, all the way up the line.”

A decade in, nothing has grown stale for the Sherpas. “We’ve actually become more invigorated ourselves,” she said. “We’ve seen how Beacon has changed and evolved. In fact, Beacon has become the kind of hometown I would have once dreamed up in a fantasy.”

Beacon Natural Market is located at 348 Main St. For more information, call 845-838-1288 or visit beaconnaturalmarket.com. The market is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.


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