El Cerrito Natural Grocery
Posted on 02 / 20 / 2010
I have been shopping at ECNG for twenty years, which shows they are doing something right. Yes, it is very near my home. However, after doing some comparison-pricing some years ago, I discovered that nearly all of their organic produce was better priced than at any of the local organic farmer's markets. The produce may be slightly fresher at a market, but for me, the offset in reduced fossil-fuel use, more than compensates for the produce being maybe a couple days post-harvest. None of the produce at ECNG ever looks "old and tired" which I do find at a certain big organic chain grocery. Also, the produce area is well-lit, so you can be sure what you're buying. The other real plus at ECNG is that the staff have always been extremely friendly and helpful, cheerful and pleasant. It is never hard to find someone to answer a question about an item or a price,and they are always happy to help with such things. Having said so much in its favor, I am sorry to say that for me ECNG continues to have two serious drawbacks, although obviously they are not serious enough to stop me from being a customer. The first issue, which seems unsolvable, is that the store is relatively small, which does affect the available selection of packaged and prepared foods. There are some items such as vegan sour cream and vegan cream cheese, which they simply don't stock, which means I do have to shop elsewhere. The frozen food department is particularly scanty, and much of it is taken up by meat-based products. The other drawback to ECNG is a very personal one for me. They have an actual butcher department at one end of the store, which for me means two unpleasant things. One, I have to be careful not to look at the dead body parts when I get to that end of the store, and worse, have to try to not hear people discussing animal parts with each other. Two, my sense of smell is quite acute, and I am constantly aware of that musty "death smell" which pervades the air of the entire store. This butcher-shop issue is, of course, a "fixable" problem, since the store does not have to have it there at all (except, unfortunately, it does attract a lot of customers looking to salve their consciences by eating animals who had, possibly, a few months of "free-range freedom" before dying in the usual miserable inorganic way). I do find that I have to sometimes grit my teeth before I walk in and take that first deep breath. But still, I shop there, because it is a good local store.
all organic produce, fast produce turnover, friendly staff
There is a butcher department, limited selection of brands/products, very small freezer section