The revitalization of Patchogue would not be complete without a natural food store in place. Wallen’s Natural Market is a welcome addition to this community. It was opened two years ago by Bob and Laura Wallen. These seasoned natural foodists have embarked on a journey that enriches their lifestyle, as well as surrounding neighborhoods.
Dan’s spoke with Bob Wallen about the store, making healthy eating choices, the local arts scene and more.
What is the history of Wallen’s?
There has been a certain misconception that Wallen’s moved to Patchogue from Bellport. The Wallen’s IGA in Bellport was started in 1949 by my grandfather and eventually run by my father after he retired from teaching. That Bellport store closed out of necessity, not for relocation; it was not a choice. My father kept it open a lot longer than other people would have. It was heartbreaking for my father to let it go. We had people working there for many years and the staff was a family. We are very sensitive to the inaccuracy of this information and many people believing we chose to move a Bellport landmark store. Just as the local residents might miss it, we do as well.
Wallen’s Natural Market is a new business that my wife, Laura and I opened. It is a completely separate entity and there is zero affiliation except for the name.
Why did you become a natural food purveyor?
We opened our store on August 1, 2013. It is a small organic and natural health food store, but certainly looking to evolve and continue to meet our customers’ needs. Laura and I live this lifestyle. It’s what we know, and we are committed to being ourselves and sharing our experience with the community.
My wife is a natural food/raw chef and the whole concept of owning this store just made sense. If a customer asks us to get something, we try to get it. It’s only two years and we are still studying our clients.
What are your most popular products?
We have a variety of organic produce, natural items and grass-fed meats, but without a doubt our customers definitely favor our prepared foods and smoothies. We have all sorts of vegan raw lunches to go. We have one customer who pays us weekly and Laura makes his lunches and dinners to go. He feels great and has gone down three belt sizes. Because the food is raw vegan, it is delicious but labor intensive. Although we open at 9 a.m., Laura is often here much earlier chopping, soaking nuts and dehydrating veggies.
What locally grown or produced items does the store carry?
We purchase our organic produce from a farm in Brookhaven and carry as much as we can until the season is over. We have cashews and hot sauces from Chef Giovanni in Holbrook, some really delicious cold brew coffee and vegan baked goods from a bakery in Amityville. We also carry soaps that are made locally and have a true dedication to supporting the local art community. Throughout the store you will find visual art, sculptures, beach glass, CDs and hanging mobiles for sale. We are very grateful for this opportunity to support the arts while at the same time promoting healthy eating.
What food trends do you see ahead in 2016?
We’re not trend forecasters and this was not part of our planning, but I will say this—people are definitely becoming more aware of what they put into and on their bodies…. what they eat. I see many more environmentally conscious consumers.
What do you like most about having your store in Patchogue Village?
I love how very supportive the other businesses are of us. They have embraced us from the beginning. There is a true sense of community in Patchogue Village. We were both born locally, myself in Bellport and Laura in East Patchogue. There is a symbiotic relationship between these two towns and cross support for sure. Everything in Patchogue is wonderful for businesses from our landlord to the Chamber of Commerce to the artistic community. I am a musician, as well, and this sense of belonging and support is very important to me.
Wallen’s Natural Market, 83 South Ocean Avenue, Patchogue, 631-438-0688, [email protected].