More specialty food stores in northcentral WisconsinSubmitted: 07/31/2014
Story By Lauren Stephenson

NORTHWOODS - It seems more all-natural and specialty food stores are popping up around the Northwoods. Antigo and Three Lakes welcomed new all-natural and specialty food stores this year. And last week, Eagle River welcomed one, as well.

"We were painstaking about finding things that you cannot find at other shops here in the Eagle River area," said Homeward Bound Specialty Foods owner Patti Katz Black. She and her husband, Dave, opened their Eagle River store last week.

"The foodie explosion's been around a long time but the market for people that are looking for health needs and a little broader choice in a specialty market, the time had come," Katz Black explained.

The time had come for the Blacks to open a store like the ones they enjoyed visiting during their travels. Homeward Bound offers ethnic and gluten-free foods, specialty sauces, imported waters and teas and Wisconsin cheese. They're also offering freshly made grab and go meals, sides, dressings and sauces by Dave who is a chef.

"We're trying to fill a niche that secretly lives everywhere," said Katz Black. "People get bored and are looking for something different."

That niche has become larger since The Country Seed opened its doors 29 years ago in Rhinelander. The store's manager, Cynde Goll, has seen interest grow since she started 7 years ago.

"The gluten-free products, the dairy-free, soy-free those type of things, there was not as many people shopping for it as I can tell that there are now," Goll said.

Stores like The Country Seed and Homeward Bound aren't alone. Two all-natural food stores, Wild Berry Market in Minocqua and Golden Harvest in Rhinelander, moved to larger locations this year to keep up with demand. There are about a dozen all-natural and specialty food stores in the area stretching from Merrill to Minocqua, over to Eagle River, down to Antigo.

The Country Seed's manager thinks people care more about what they eat than they did a few years ago.

"People are more aware of what they're putting in their bodies," explained Goll. "They're more conscious of the things that are in our foods nowadays and what they're consuming and it's easier to go to a specialty store and know you don't have to do as much label-reading and it's more convenient to find what you're looking for."

The Homeward Bound owners hope to provide that convenience to their customers. Katz Black says they're "trying to make eating enjoyable, healthy and easy, and affordable."

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