Kent Natural Foods provides a sense of community

Denise Wright

Co-op members bond through love of local products

It’s difficult to find apple cinnamon alkalizing tea, organic makeup and locally grown vegetables all in a grocery run to one store. But it’s doable at Kent Natural Foods Co-op.

The store, which is located in downtown Kent near the Kent Stage, carries a wide range of products – a lot of which are brought in at a local level.

Cindy Bissell, co-manager of the store, said vegetables come from farmers in Portage, Summit and Medina counties, while all of the bread in stock is baked in Ohio.

According to the store’s philosophy, the store prides itself on “operating a responsible co-operative market that provides healthful, natural foods and products at fair prices.” The co-op is membership-based, but shoppers are not required to have a membership. Memberships entitle shoppers to a five- to 25-percent discount (depending on whether the member volunteers at the store), the ability to buy in bulk and a voice in store-altering decisions at weekly meetings.

Maurice “Mo” Drake, a Brady Lake resident and current member of Kent Natural Foods, said he’s been shopping at the store for more than 30 years. He said he currently visits the co-op three or four times per week because he likes the community feel of the store.

“Even though (the staff) can’t recommend certain products, they’ll do what they can to try to help you,” he said. “And if they don’t, there will be a customer in the store who will turn around and recommend something to you.”

Kent resident Erica Bailey said she just recently got her membership and is still discovering everything the store has, and she likes the products she’s seen so far.

“There are things here that you can’t get anywhere else,” she said, referencing the five-pound bag of fair-trade coffee she recently bought. “Plus, I think it’s a good thing to support local, ethnically run businesses.”

Contact features reporter Denise Wright at [email protected]