From humble beginnings to largest in statePublished 8:03pm Sunday, July 25, 2010
By SCOTT NOVAK
From its humble beginnings in the basement of a student at Emmanuel Missionary College in 1919 to its being Michigan’s largest natural food store today, Apple Valley Market has come a long way.
Originally the College Supply Store provided groceries and vegetarian meat products to the students, staff and faculty at Emmanuel Missionary College (now Andrews University).
The store found its niche and was a success, prompting a move into a larger facility on campus in the late 1940s.
In 1975, the name changed to Apple Valley and it moved into its current location in a 50,000-square-foot building alongside U.S. 31.
Apple Valley expanded again in the late 1980s, not at it current site, but by adding stores in Michigan and Illinois.
Currently there are six satellite stores, including one in Mishawaka, Ind.
In 1998, Andrews University sold Apple Valley to private Seventh-day Adventist ownership.
General Manager George Schmidt said that the stores are unique and that they continually work at providing what the customer wants.
“We try to fulfill the needs of all our customers,” he said. “There is a trend toward eating more healthy today. Customers are reading the labels more carefully and they have a better understanding of the foods they are consuming.”
Keeping in front of the other stores takes some work.
“We do have to continue to strive to be unique because a lot of the items we have are being introduced at local stores,” Schmidt pointed out. “We have to make a real conscious effort as to what consumers are looking for. Today, more than ever, wheat free and gluten free are right at the top of the list of new items which are sought after and also the variety the customers are looking for.”
Apple Valley has just about everything area shoppers would want in a store.
It has a large selection of vegetarian foods, vitamins and natural foods. It also carries over 600 bulk food items, fresh produce and bakery products.
There is also a deli, which serves up homemade vegetarian meals every day.
There is the area’s only Gold Crown Hallmark store and Victoria’s Flowers.
While most stores carry just Morningstar vegetarian meat products, Apple Valley has a number of varieties and goes through a semi-full of vegetarian meats from Worthington, which is owned by Kellogg, every three weeks.
All of the products found in the Berrien Springs store can also be found at the satellite stores.
Because Apple Valley is able to buy its products in such a great quantity, it is able to help keep costs down, which is also important to its customers.
Schmidt noted that along with vegetarian products, Apple Valley’s produce section is also well-known.
“We typically have a larger selection of produce than most stores,” he said. “We try to be very competitive in the market area. We promote a lot of local farmers. We carry a large variety of organic items, which are very popular.”
Another one of the store’s favorite areas for consumers is the bulk foods.
Schmidt said that the store buys the products in 10- to 50-pound master cases and then packages them for sale.
“It does show quite a savings doing it that way,” Schmidt said. “In varieties, we carry about 365 different items in our bulk department. If you really do a comparison to national brands, there is really quite a savings within the bulk.”
Schmidt added that the uniqueness of the items in the bulk section are not usually found in a conventional grocery store.
Besides the seven stores, customers can also have items mailed to them if they live within the United States.
Those products can be ordered online at www.avnf.com.
The Berrien Springs store is open Sunday, 8 a.m. until 11 p.m.; Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. until 11 p.m.; and Fridays, 7 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Apple Valley Market is closed on Saturday.