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Natural food market bustling in Steamboat

David High visits with clerk Barb Lynn while checking out at Bamboo Market. The business is celebrating its 20th year in Steamboat Springs.

Photo by John F. Russell

David High visits with clerk Barb Lynn while checking out at Bamboo Market. The business is celebrating its 20th year in Steamboat Springs.

Natural food market bustling in Steamboat

Groups have organic ideas on table as movement gains steam

— The longevity of two local stores is spotlighting a blossoming appreciation for natural foods in Routt County and beyond.

Bamboo Market, at Yampa and 11th streets, is celebrating 20 years in business and offering free samples of Colorado-produced foods Thursday and Friday. On the other end of downtown, Healthy Solutions at Third Street and Lincoln Avenue has a history nearly as long — manager Nina Rogers said the store opened in August 1994 and continues to see strong business. Healthy Solutions recently expanded its delicatessen and produce section, for example.

Meanwhile, Deep Roots Local Food Trust, which promotes and facilitates natural food production in Northwest Colorado, is hosting a seed swap and potluck dinner April 1 and exploring ideas for year-round food production in Routt County.

“We’ve been chatting about how to collaborate to get some year-round greenhouses built,” Deep Roots Executive Director Lisa Sadler said last week. “I’ve heard from a lot of people … that are incredibly interested.”

Nancy Kramer is program coordinator for Northwest Colorado Products, which operates under the Community Agriculture Alliance. Kramer said she’s also been involved in conversations about new year-round food production facilities. Kramer said although people have kicked around such ideas for years, the talk is accelerating.

“There’s certainly some larger discussions that will be had over the next year or so,” Kramer said. “We’re going to be working toward getting everybody together.”

Growing success

Bamboo Market reflects the increasing local desire for natural foods and health products.

Owner Anne Halloran said she came to Steamboat Springs more than 20 years ago from San Diego’s Ocean Beach neighborhood, where “there were health food stores all over the place” and eating organic was the norm, not a niche.

“I moved here, and the lifestyle was very similar to Southern California,” she said.

But surprisingly, Halloran said, she had to drive to Boulder to eat the way she wanted.

So she opened Bamboo Market on Feb. 14, 1991, in the Ninth Street location now occupied by Azteca Taqueria. The store began with 300 square feet, she said, and grew during two remodels in that space.

“We just kept knocking out walls,” she said.

Bamboo Market moved to its Yampa and 11th streets location in December 2005. The store now covers 3,000 square feet and has 20 employees, offering products such as coffee, produce, bulk grains, an array of groceries and, like Healthy Solutions, a bustling delicatessen.

“Our deli is a huge, huge driver,” Halloran said.

Although Bamboo Market’s true anniversary was last month, Halloran said they’re celebrating in March to enjoy warmer weather and more daylight during Thursday and Friday’s events, which include free food samples and giveaways.

Steamboat Ski Patrol em­­ployee Jeff “Soda” Davison had lunch at Bamboo Market on Wednesday, selecting a salad with tuna. He said he regularly does his grocery shopping there, as well.

“They offer products you can’t find anywhere else in Steamboat,” Davison said. “I eat gluten-free and non-GMO.”

Non-GMO is a growing food trend away from products that include genetically modified organisms.

Rogers said that trend also is boosting business at Healthy Solutions.

“There’s a lot more people thinking about natural foods and organic foods — there was a big information push in the middle of the winter about non-GMO foods, and people are really interested in that,” she said.

Rogers and Halloran cited an increase in business from tourists at their stores and said visitors often are pleasantly surprised to find natural food options in Steamboat.

After 20 years and counting, Halloran said she expects that interest to continue growing.

“It’s a good industry to be in,” Halloran said. “It’s not a fad. It’s not going to go away. … I feel very fortunate.”

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