Once upon a time, locals looking for farm-fresh foods or exotic ingredients had no other choice but to source them via the Internet.
Those days are mere bitter memories as food from all over the globe can be purchased in town and organic, natural and local products are more commonly found in stores than not.
Many moons ago, Naifeh’s International Market led a smattering of gourmet food shops in town.
For organics, the only providers were Akin’s Natural Foods and Health Food Center.
Kamp’s, Cusack Meats and Wheeler’s Meat Market were the only butchers in town offering premium beef.
Gulfport Seafood was the only seafood market until Avalon Seafood Market opened in the 1990s.
The one store available for adventurous ingredients was Super Cao Nguyen Market in the Asian District.
The Luong family has grown what started as a small Asian market into an enormous international grocery store specializing in Asian ingredients.
It boasts foods from around the world plus some of the best meats in the metro area.
In the early part of the 21st century, with great assistance from the Food Network, food became trendy. And out of this trend came a movement for local food produced by sustainable practices.
A rural state such as Oklahoma seemed a natural to be a forerunner in this kind of movement.
Alas, Oklahoma was slower than one might expect to connect with the movement, anchored by vibrant farmers markets and large farmers-market style stores such as Whole Foods.
Along with the Super Cao Nguyen Market, Oklahoma City had farmers markets but no Whole Foods until the Austin, Texas,-based company bought Wild Oats, which had a store in Tulsa. The space was retrofitted into a small version of the green-leaning juggernaut.
Oklahoma did have a young former Food Network intern named Suzy Thompson, who returned to her home state with a newfound passion for artisan cheese.
She and husband, Steve “Wampus” Reynolds, opened a store in Norman called Forward Foods to share their passion for cheese. The store expanded to include gourmet boxed and canned goods and local, organic produce. They opened a second store in north Oklahoma City.
Just days after Forward Foods opened its second store, it was announced Whole Foods would open its first Oklahoma City store in October 2011.
Though that was the official announcement, word of Whole Foods’ impending arrival dated back at least two years. Local grocers began ratcheting up inventory and making over their stores well in advance of fall 2011.