Share this: Bob Locatelli, owner of New Leaf markets in Felton and Boulder Creek, will end his franchise with New Leaf Community Markets in April and rename his stores ‘Wild Roots Market.’ Daughter Kristi Locatelli is the chief operating officer and Nellie Donovan, right, is general manager. (Dan Coyro -- Santa Cruz Sentinel) Cashier Ally Thieman, who has worked at the Felton New Leaf market for 18 years, sees the move to become an independent market as positive. (Jondi Gumz -- Santa Cruz Sentinel) New Leaf Market in Felton and Boulder Creek will become Wild Roots Market in April when owner Bob Locatelli ends his franchise agreements with New Leaf. (Dan Coyro -- Santa Cruz Sentinel) Felton and Boulder Creek New Leaf markets owner Bob Locatelli is parting ways with New Leaf after 24 years. He wants to maintain his produce as 100 percent organic. (Dan Coyro -- Santa Cruz Sentinel) FELTON >> After 24 years, the New Leaf markets owned by the Locatelli family in the San Lorenzo Valley will end their New Leaf franchise arrangement and change the name to Wild Roots Market, operating independently starting April 2. For Bob Locatelli, 71, a pharmacist-turned-grocery owner, and his daughter Kristi Locatelli, 43, chief operating officer with a master’s degree in business, it was a big decision in the works for 18 months. “We wanted to focus on the local community,” said Kristi Locatelli, citing “big changes with New Seasons.” That’s the Portland-based grocer that in 2013 bought six New Leaf stores from Scott Roseman, who launched the business with his partners in 1985 and grew that enterprise to eight stores, 600 employees and nearly $100 million in annual sales. Roseman was a leader in creating the Independent Natural Foods Retailers Association to boost buying power for smaller stores. Before he sold New Leaf, he had announced plans to require labeling of foods containing genetically-modified organisms by 2018.
Plans to open in San Francisco, Carmel and Emeryville were scrapped and the Sunnyvale store opened six months ago is slated to close. These changes came in the wake of an employee unionization drive sparked by cuts in health care coverage, according to the Portland Oregonian newspaper, which noted the private equity firm Endeavour Capital owns 60 percent of New Seasons. New Leaf spokeswoman Patti Bond said New Seasons Market is a certified B Corp using business to solve social and environmental problems — the first grocer in the U.S. to do so — but it is not a certified organic retailer. Messages left Thursday for New Seasons co-president Forrest Hoffmaster and Kristi McFarland in Portland were not returned. “We had a great run with New Leaf,” said Bob Locatelli, who bought Roy’s Market in Felton in 1991 and branded it New Leaf in 1994, then did the same thing with the Valley Market in Boulder Creek in 1998. Nevertheless, father and daughter are eager to tell their story, their commitment to be 100 percent organic. They say their enterprise was the first to be certified as an organic retailer by Santa Cruz-based California Certified Organic Farmers. “Anecdotally we believe that New Leaf is the first certified retailer, but we cannot confirm,” said Kelly Damewood, CCOF’s director of policy and government affairs. “They’re located in a more remote area of the county and can focus more on being 100 percent organic.” With his stores in Santa Cruz and Capitola, then expanding to Half Moon Bay and Pleasanton, “we were attempting to reach a broader population,” Roseman said. “Our New Leafs were more than 90-95 percent organic for as long I can remember.” Compared the San Lorenzo Valley stores, he said, “We may not be as strict as they are.” New Seasons is about 28-30 percent conventional products, according to Roseman. Shoppers at New Seasons will find conventional grocery classics such as Cheerios along with local and organic favorites such as free range chicken, according to the New Seasons website. For Kristi Locatelli, who has daughters ages 6 and 4, being 100 percent organic is important to shoppers. “We’re committed to our community,” said Kat Thomas, who has worked in the Felton New Leaf vitamin department for 12 years. We get to stay true to ourselves.” Added Nellie Donovan, general manager for 23 years, “We’re doing it for all the right reasons.” Ally Thieman, a cashier at the market for 18 years, “I love that we’re supporting local organics. We’re breaking away from a chain that doesn’t.” NEW NAME. “We found the right one — locals like wild,” said Bob Locatelli, noting more than 100 names were considered. Sleepless Media, a creative agency in Soquel, was tapped to come up with new branding, logo, website, shopping bag and signs, a big project involving the entire staff. Jon Cattivera, Sleepless Media’s creative director, didn’t want to spoil the surprise of the new logo. “Anything you can think of roots, we tried it, redwood roots, roots in the community,” he said, crediting designers Michael Whalen and Leslee Hinrichs for their work. What’s not changing are the community and donation programs such “Senior Discount Day” and the reusable bag donation program that supports local environmental nonprofits. To boost buying power for Wild Roots, Donovan said purchasing will be done through the Independent Natural Foods Retailers Association. Ben Lomond resident Sharon Fishel said she’s not a regular at New Leaf “because it’s expensive.” When she wanted to buy organic chicken, she first went to Nob Hill Foods, where she vied with another customer, who got the one piece of organic chicken available. Thomas, the longtime employee, has a counter-argument. “When it says certified organic, that comes with a certain price tag,” she said.
“But there’s reassurance that the food isn’t tainted, and is truly healthy, and doesn’t have pesticides or GMOs.” Gail Levine, a regular at the Felton market, said she appreciates the Locatellis’ decision to run independent markets.
“It’s a way to continue the way it’s always been,” she said. What: New name for locally owned certified organic retailer. Where: 6240 Highway 9, Felton, and 13159 Highway 9, Boulder Creek.