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Supermarket Spotlight: Organic Circle in Brooklyn is ‘The Hidden Gem’ in the New York City Organic World

Supermarket Spotlight is a new column that I am launching today, and it will showcase independent, organic supermarkets throughout the country that people ought to know about, such as Organic Circle.

This column will run every other month and is sponsored by my friends at RangeMe, the leading platform that empowers retail buyers with an efficient way to discover innovative new products and to manage their inbound product submission process. RangeMe gives product suppliers and manufacturers increased control over the marketing of their products and greater access to retail buyers.

If you would like to nominate an organic supermarket for this column, I would love to hear from you. Please contact me and tell me what makes your market so special and unique.

Through my friend Jesse Schwartz, President of Living Tree Community Foods, I was put in touch with the people at Organic Circle, an organic supermarket in the Midwood section of Brooklyn.

Although I like to think I have a decent sense of what is happening in the NYC organic food scene, I had never heard of this market before and wasn’t sure what to make of it. So, after many months of back-and-forth correspondence, I decided to make the nearly one hour subway ride out to Brooklyn to check this place out.

Much to my surprise, what I found was one of the most amazing organic supermarkets I have ever visited.

Started by Moishe Nussencweig, who has been in the grocery business since he was a very young boy and also owns a conventional supermarket right down the street, Organic Circle is as serious as its gets when it comes to organic.

With about 97% of its grocery products and 100% of its poultry, fruits and vegetables as certified organic, Organic Circle took the extra effort to get its three kitchens certified organic, so all of its prepared foods can carry the USDA organic seal.

Many juice bars now have USDA organic certification and I’ve been to a handful of certified organic restaurants throughout the country, but I have never encountered a supermarket that makes from scratch and sells its own USDA certified organic prepared foods.

In my view, the prepared foods section at a supermarket is the true litmus test for how committed a supermarket is to organic.

Unless you have spent time with the owners or managers of a market, you just don’t truly know what is organic and what isn’t organic. For example, if an organic avocado isn’t ripe or isn’t available from the distributor, will a conventional avocado be used as a substitution for a specific prepared food item?

(Organic potato & mushroom kugel, organic vegetable kugel)

At Organic Circle, these are worries or conversations that you don’t need to have because all of the cooked and raw prepared foods, such as the salads, lentil burgers, coleslaws, sauerkrauts, puddings, chocolate and ice creams, are certified organic. And this is something that the owner of Organic Circle takes very seriously.

“Sometimes my cooks will want to use a very unusual or hard-to-find spice that is not certified organic, and I tell them absolutely not. Everything must be certified organic, without exception,” said Moishe Nussencweig.

Here are some other things about Organic Circle that really stood out to me:

  • The store makes its own organic probiotic dairy products, such as yogurts and cheeses. Again, something that I had never seen before at a supermarket. There are two reasons why Organic Circle does this. First, it is produced at a level that the market’s community expects. Meaning, the milk went through a strict kosher supervision and certification process. Second, Organic Circle can better control the quality of the probiotic product since the cheeses, butters, and creams are constantly being made and are much more fresh.
  • Certified organic pizzas and breads, many of which are sourdough, are baked daily.
  • The market has three certified organic and kosher kitchens – one is a bakery, one is for cooked foods and the other is for dairy. Kosher rules prohibit the mixing of certain foods, such as milk and meat.
  • There are two full-time holistic health coaches on staff that help customers shop, provide nutritional assistance and oversee the very successful organic juice cleanse program.
  • The bulk section does not have bins because of sanitary reasons. All bulk items are packed separately in plastic containers to maintain cleanliness.
  • Everything in Organic Circle is certified kosher and there are two full-time rabbis on staff, one of whom is a health coach. Something that I didn’t know is that the rabbis are constantly inspecting the fruits and vegetables, such as the dates, strawberries and celery, for bugs. These bugs are not allowed under kosher rules.
  • On Sundays, Organic Circle hosts a weekly health symposium, where various speakers talk about different food and wellness subjects.
  • The market will be hosting kosher yoga classes. Yes, kosher yoga. These are yoga classes where men and women practice separately, and religious elements are removed.

From spending time at Organic Circle and after having numerous conversations with management, it became very clear to me that this is a market that legitimately puts the health of its customers first.

For an organic market of this size to employ two full-time health coaches, at no cost to the shoppers, is absolutely unheard of. This is a very serious expense for the company, but it is done with the goal of helping to educate and improve the lives of the market’s community.

Also, a common complaint about organic is that it so expensive. Yet, since Moishe Nussencweig has been purchasing produce since he was 8 years old, he knows how to buy. On a daily basis, he is purchasing from 4 to 6 different vendors in order to get the lowest possible prices. Thus, he is able to pass the price savings onto his customers.

“We believe that our prices, on average, are lower than all other organic markets. Sometimes, our items are cheaper than conventional,” this veteran grocer told me.

At his other supermarket down the street, he sells conventional bananas for $.89 per pound. At Organic Circle, organic bananas are sold for $.89 per pound as well. When on sale, these same organic bananas can retail for $.59 per pound.

For those people who live in Manhattan, Brooklyn or other parts of the NYC area and can’t get to the store on a regular basis, Organic Circle delivers within a 50-mile radius. Just call the store for more details.

However, for people who truly love organic, making a visit to Brooklyn is an absolute must.

Without question, Organic Circle is “the hidden gem” in the New York City organic world and this market is truly something special.

(The rabbi is inspecting the dates for bugs.)

(No bins in the bulk section.)

A message from Tradin Organic

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livingmaxwell: a guide to organic food & drink