Originally printed in the April 2018 issue of Produce Business.
San Diego-area grocer widely embraced for its organic and local products.
Jimbo’s…Naturally! in Carlsbad, CA, is a place where fresh organic food choices and community come together to create a unique shopping experience.
A complete natural foods grocery store, Jimbo’s…Naturally! carries a full line of groceries, vitamins, health and beauty aids, hormone-free and antibiotic-free meats, has an in-house deli, a made-from-scratch bakery and a juice bar. The store also offers many vegan, gluten-free and raw items.
But what Jimbo’s…Naturally! is really known for is its strong emphasis on organics and support of local products and for its financial contributions to the local community.
Owner Jim “Jimbo” Someck has been in the natural foods industry since 1973 and has forged long-lasting relationships with producers throughout San Diego County.
He started working in the grocery business at Ocean Beach People’s Organic Food Market in the 1970s and in 1984, opened his first Jimbo’s…Naturally! store in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego. Since then, he has opened five Jimbo’s…Naturally! stores, all in north county San Diego, while closing the store in North Park.
As a leader and spokesperson for independent natural food stores, Someck helped found the Independent Natural Food Retailers Association (INFRA) and served on the Non-GMO Project’s retailers advisory committee. Jimbo’s…Naturally! was awarded 2012 Retailer of the Year award by a natural products industry magazine and Natural Products Association’s 2012 Socially Responsible Retailer award.
Shopping the perimeter of Jimbo’s…Naturally! in Carlsbad, customers will find fresh organic offerings in all the perishable departments including produce, meat, seafood, deli, bakery and the juice counter.
The center store offers a large selection of grocery and wellness items, including several locally produced Non-GMO Project-verified, raw, vegan, and gluten-free options.
At checkout, customers who bring in reusable shopping bags receive a nickel or a Wooden Nickel per bag. The Wooden Nickel program rewards customers, the environment, and supports local nonprofit organizations. For example, each year, Jimbo’s identifies a unique non-profit organization to serve as the beneficiary of the Wooden Nickel program and customer appreciation sale. The organization receives 5 percent of the entire day’s sales. When customers save 5 percent on their grocery bill, they also have the option of donating their savings to this organization.
“When we compare the price of our organic produce items, we are typically lower than Whole Foods.”
— Kelly Hartford, director of marketing
The produce department at Jimbo’s…Naturally! is in a rectangular shape. The wet rack is 60-feet long, and the packaged produce/salad section is 12-feet long. Center tables run the length of the 60 feet and contain a mixture of refrigerated and dry items. Several items are displayed in upended crates, and signs featuring local growers or farmers are hung throughout the department. As a result of the signage, many customers say they recognize Jimbo’s…Naturally! suppliers by name. The use of color breaks gives the produce categories a curated look.
Jimbo’s…Naturally! sources much of its produce from surrounding-area regional organic farms as well as from distributors throughout California. With several, close organic farm options, the company’s goal is to hand-pick the best organic produce with the most exceptional quality and taste. And given the diversity of small-scale organic farms in the region, the store sources less-mainstream, unique organic produce items such as cherimoyas, guavas, mulberries, Shishito peppers and other lesser-known fruits and vegetables.
About 98 percent — some 244 fresh produce items — are certified organic; the remaining 2 percent are conventionally grown due to supply issues. The company is reviewing its sourcing policy and may decide to go 100 percent organic in 2018.
The Jimbo’s…Naturally! store in Carlsbad has a produce manager who oversees orders under the direction of the regional produce buyer/supervisor. The regional produce buyer/supervisor drives the sourcing decisions.
The store works with two produce distributors in Los Angeles and one in San Francisco. The San Diego County local farms/vendors deliver directly to the store from their farms. Produce sales account for 16 to 19 percent of total store sales; gross profit target is approximately 33.33 percent.
“Our first priority in sourcing produce is that it be organically grown, followed closely by taste and locality,” said Kelly Hartford, director of marketing. “When we compare the price of our organic produce items, we are typically lower than Whole Foods. Since we deal directly with local organic farmers, we have cut out the middle person and are able to pay the farmers more than they would get paid if they had to sell to a distributor. The produce still comes to us at a better price which we pass on to our customers.”
The company promotes the produce department through its social media accounts and farmers who attend in-store events. In addition, organic seasonal items are promoted with special events such as an heirloom tomato festival and the Frog Hollow Festival that highlights tree-ripened summer stone fruit from the Frog Hollow Farm in Brentwood, CA.
There are seven organic produce items included in each biweekly flier, and the department manager uses the front of the department merchandising area and end caps to promote seasonal items and those on ad.
Customer service and product training are emphasized at Jimbo’s…Naturally! Employees are trained to greet and interact with every customer who enters the produce department, offer samples and suggest what is in season.
Produce staff members go through a 30-day introduction training where they are paired with department supervisors and experienced staff. All Jimbo’s…Naturally! employees are encouraged to take the online Albert’s Organics Produce College and Organic College courses, where they can earn a Jimbo’s…Naturally! gift card for completing.
The shoppers at Jimbo’s…Naturally! Carlsbad store are a reflection of the community. On any given day, surfers, hippies, office workers and school kids mix as they peruse the hand-stacked produce items for what’s fresh.
Seeing kids shop the produce department is part of Someck’s vision and the company’s mission statement: A piece of organic fruit in a recycled lunch bag for every student.
Someck says he is fortunate to have a career that reflects his lifestyle and belief system. Married and the father of four children, Someck is an avid runner and a strict vegetarian. His wife, Colleen, prepares daily meals from scratch. The same guidelines apply at home as in his store — no white sugar, no harmful chemicals or preservatives, and organic ingredients whenever possible.
Jimbo’s…Naturally! Natural Foods
1923 Calle Barcelona, Carlsbad, CA 92009
Open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily