SCARBOROUGH, Maine — On the Vine Marketplace, a natural foods store with mainstream appeal, opens Friday in the former Dunstan School Restaurant.
Abel Schultze, his wife Angela, and their business partner, Scott Edwards, completed the acquisition of the property, at 591 U.S. Route 1, last winter. For nearly 30 years, the building served as a buffet-style restaurant.
The Schultzes, who live in Eliot, operate another On the Vine in Exeter, New Hampshire, which they opened in 2006.
Abel Schultz said he grew up on a dairy farm in Eliot, which is still operated by his 74-year-old father. As a young boy, he used to help his grandfather butcher meat.
Schultze now drives to Chelsea Market in New York City three times a week to get meat and produce for the store in Exeter, a practice which he admits isn’t entirely sustainable, but “it’s hard for me to trust anyone else to do it,” he said.
Schultze said On the Vine stocks a variety of products, because it makes the store more accessible to a variety of tastes. Cambell’s soup products sit next to Amy’s Organic Soups, and cans of Rotel dip are next to Muir Glen organic salsa.
Offering all-natural and organic options and non-organic and GMO options is price competitive, Schultze said Tuesday. “I want to make sure people have that option.”
He said On the Vine’s prices are comparable to those in larger supermarkets.
When it comes to selling local products, he said, “having grown up on a farm and understanding how hard it is to make a living … I want to support the local guys. If we can all support each other, it’s a win-win,” he said.
“All day every day, I would sell 100 percent local if I could,” he said. But finding the balance between what he can afford and what he wants to provide to customers is the tough part.
“I want to provide (customers) with all these options if I can, if it’s cost-effective and if it will sell,” he said.
On the Vine will offer not only organic and non-organic dry goods, frozen foods, cheeses, a meat counter, a fish counter and a produce section, but also a salad bar, a bakery, wine and beer and Maine-made products.
Renovation of the building, which originally housed the Dunstan School and later the restaurant, included gutting and opened up the structure to increase sunlight. Walls were knocked down, and brick archways were added. Schultze said one of his favorite characteristics is the natural light, which pours in from windows on all sides of the building.
The historic building is what makes the place special, he said. Once the operation is up and running, he said he plans to install murals on two walls, one that shows his grandfather as a butcher and the other, his father on the farm.
On the Vine Marketplace will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and close at 6 p.m. on Sundays.