Honolulu, Hawaii (August 12, 2009) – Honolulu-based Down to Earth ALL VEGETARIAN Organic and Natural will open a new store in Hilo on the Big Island this fall and complete remodels of its Kahului and Kailua stores by early next year. The addition will give the company a total of five stores in Hawaii. Down to Earth is the only all-vegetarian food store in Hawaii and one of only a few in the nation. The expansion is expected to add approximately 50 jobs to the company’s payroll.

“Our expansion is a response to consumer demand,” says Mark Fergusson, Down to Earth CEO. “Customers from under served parts of the state have been asking us to come to their neighborhoods for years. We’re thrilled to be able to do that now, with initial focus on the Big Island. Other locations are being considered.” The new Down to Earth store in Hilo will be located in the Wal-Mart Shopping Center in a 5,500-square-foot space vacated by Island Naturals Market, which will be moving to the Hilo Shopping Center in September. The new Down to Earth store will open in October or November of this year.

“This is a great location,” explains Fergusson. “We were actually going to open a store in that exact spot 13 years ago, and are excited to have the opportunity to do it now. We were surprised that Island Naturals would actually relinquish an outstanding location in the highest-traffic shopping center on the Big Island. We couldn’t turn it down when it was offered to us.” The remodel of the Kahului store includes an expansion that converts 3,000 square feet of storage space into retail space, for a total of 9,000 square feet.

“The bigger and renovated store will have many new products and will allow us to offer our customers a wider range of healthy and organic products,” said Fergusson. “We will more than double the size of the chill and frozen department, greatly improve our award winning vegetarian deli, and expand our wellness, grocery, and produce departments,” he added.

The renovation and remodel of the Kailua store will be modest by comparison, as no new square footage will be added. “The main benefits for customers will be the doubling of the chill and frozen departments, where there has been an explosion of new vegetarian products since the store first opened in 2000, and we are going to improve our popular deli, bakery, and juice bar.” Fergusson said changes in the layout of the store will improve traffic flow and make the shopping experience easier and more enjoyable.

The Hilo store and renovated Kahului and Kailua stores will feature the new “look” of the company’s recently remodeled flagship store on King Street in Honolulu. The graphics feature its new logo that emphasizes the company’s local roots and its new universally appealing slogan, “Love Life!”—which for Down to Earth includes the meaning “Love animals, don’t eat them.” The décor also includes the prominent display of a message encouraging Down to Earth customers to consider that “The single most important thing an individual can do for their health, for the environment, and for the sake of the innocent animals is to adopt a vegetarian diet.”

Down to Earth stores carry a variety of natural and organic foods and groceries including dairy products, local organic produce, bulk foods, vitamins and natural supplements, body care products, and household items. Its stores feature vegetarian delis with a hot table and cold salad bar, fresh juices and smoothies, a great made-to-order sandwich menu, delicious fresh grab-and-go options and a wide variety of tasty desserts made daily. “The success of Down to Earth has been based on our unshakable commitment to both our vegetarian mission and our customers,” adds Fergusson.

“We have earned the loyalty of practicing and aspiring vegetarians and many other customers due to our uncompromising dedication to this commitment. We remain a community-based business whose mission is to promote healthy living among our island communities, respect for the environment, sustainable organic farming, and a vegetarian lifestyle. Yet, you don’t need to be a vegetarian to shop at Down to Earth. Everyone can benefit from the all-vegetarian, organic and natural products that Down to Earth provides.”

Preferred Local Natural Food Store

Even with increasing competition, Fergusson believes customers will continue to choose Down to Earth as their preferred natural food store. He says there are many reasons for his confidence: “The first is price. Down to Earth will continue to offer great values on natural foods and sell only healthy products that are good for you and the environment” “We understand the local market. We have served health-conscious islanders for over thirty years, with natural and organic products, free cooking classes, nutritional seminars, and community outreach. Our customers know they can rely on us for quality products, great value, and excellent service from our friendly and knowledgeable staff. No amount of marketing glitz, ostentatious décor, and fancy gourmet foods can take the place of deep local roots and knowledge of local tastes. “And, many of Down to Earth’s customers are vegetarians who will not be comfortable shopping in a store that sells and promotes meat. They know that eating meat is bad for their health and the environment and reject the notion that slaughtering animals to eat them is ever humane. And those moving towards a vegetarian lifestyle appreciate the health and environmental benefits, too. For example, a vegetarian diet supports a “green” lifestyle since it is dramatically more effective in reducing global warming than any other action an individual can make in their daily life. As a 2006 United Nations report said, the livestock industry generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.” “Finally, Down to Earth supports local businesses. Each year we purchase about $2.5 million in products from 400 local vendors including over 150 farmers and growers. The trust and loyalty we have developed with them means we will continue to have access to the freshest local fruits and vegetables.”

Excellent Prospects for Growth

“As a result,” Fergusson says, “Down to Earth is and will continue to thrive in a marketplace that changed considerably with the recent arrival of a mainland retailer. We look forward to increased interest in organic and natural foods in Hawaii. Expanding the market for healthful foods will benefit the people of Hawaii and we expect our business to grow.” Down to Earth is currently interviewing for positions at all levels in the Hilo store. Applicants may contact the Human Resource Department at (808) 945-3559 or email jobs@downtoearth.org. Down to Earth was founded in 1977 in Wailuku, Maui. Today, Down to Earth is the largest local natural foods store chain in Hawaii with four locations: Honolulu, Kailua and Pearlridge on Oahu, and Kahului on Maui. For more information visit www.downtoearth.org